A comprehensive analysis of the constituents of executive functioning: the utility of a paediatric model towards the clear conceptualisation of EF in healthy adults

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Burlak, Jessica (2019) A comprehensive analysis of the constituents of executive functioning: the utility of a paediatric model towards the clear conceptualisation of EF in healthy adults. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


Executive Functioning (EF) is a construct that encompasses multiple interrelated higher order skills, however, conceptualising the nebulous construct remains challenging. This paper outlined several areas of research contributing to the difficulties and challenges associated with the operationalisation of EF which pose significant challenges for the validity of psychological assessment. It was the contention of the study to confirm the validity of Anderson’s (2002) paediatric model of Executive Function in a healthy adult population. Hypotheses specified that; 1) All four constructs (Attentional Control (AC), Cognitive Flexibility (CF), Information Processing (IP), Goal Setting (GS)) purported by Anderson would be upheld mathematically, 2) Attentional Control would be the strongest predictor, explaining the greatest variance in all other latent constructs. Thus, attention would be a significant domain that warrants its theoretical consideration within a model of EF, and not separate to it, and 3) Information Processing would be the second strongest predictor of other latent constructs, therefore demonstrating that IP is an influential component in a model of EF. One hundred and thirty-three adults (42 male and 91 females) aged between 18 and 50 (M=29.68, SD=7.46) completed a cognitive test battery comprising 22 tests. Of the 57 variables analysed, data reduction yielded 23 for further analyses. CFA revealed all four constructs of Anderson’s model upheld, however findings imply Attentional Control as represented by more posterior attention tasks does not significantly explain EF performance at a higher level, but rather, the speed with which an individual is able to process and respond to task demands is a mediating factor in performance. The work of Peter Anderson (2002) over a decade ago has proven an exceptional platform from which to explore definitions, tests and constructs of EF, and by building his work this study has made significant advances toward a hierarchical model of EF and more importantly, the mechanisms critical to efficient functioning at the highest level of complexity. This thesis has reconciled various issues highlighted within the literature and offers a number of conclusions and directions for future research.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
URI http://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/40047
Subjects Current > FOR Classification > 1702 Cognitive Science
Current > Division/Research > College of Health and Biomedicine
Keywords executive functioning; adults; Peter Anderson; congeneric modelling; attentional control; cognitive flexibility; information processing; goal setting; regression analyses
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