Chapter

The Aging of Executive Functions

Karen Daniels Jeffrey and Toth Larry Jacoby

in Lifespan Cognition

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780195169539
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199847204 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195169539.003.0007
The Aging of Executive Functions

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As with most cognitive abilities, executive functions have been operationalized in terms of task performance, although the specific tasks employed have differed in neuropsychology and cognitive psychology. This chapter explores how executive functions change with age. First, it traces the origin of the concept of executive function, noting how it has been operationalized in both cognitive and neuropsychological studies in terms of performance on specific tasks. It cites some of the studies that have compared young and older adults on such tasks, but focuses mainly on whether task-based research has been (or will be) able to answer two critical questions: First, whether there are multiple executive functions or only one superordinate function (that is, the unity/diversity question) and second, whether one or more of these functions decline with age. As an alternative to task-based approaches, this chapter describes research and multinomial modeling done using the process dissociation procedure. It also discusses research linking process-dissociation estimates of cognitive control to measures of fluid intelligence and metacognitive monitoring.

Keywords: age; executive functions; process dissociation; cognitive abilities; task performance; neuropsychology; cognitive psychology; cognitive control; fluid intelligence

Chapter.  10589 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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