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What Is Executive Functioning? 5 Things To Know

By   /  June 1, 2021  /  Comments Off on What Is Executive Functioning? 5 Things To Know

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Parents teach their kids the concept of right and wrong as well as the importance of thinking before acting, staying focused, careful planning, and discipline as early as childhood. Harmful temptations are everywhere, so children should learn to resist them and deal with life’s challenges bravely. Many parents also hone their children to become leaders, think outside of the box, or see things in different perspectives.

All of those things have to do with cognition and memory, which are part of what’s called executive functions. So what’s executive functioning (EF), and why does it matter? Read on to learn more about it.

What Is Executive Functioning?

This is also known as cognitive control or executive control. Attention, inhibitory control, and working memory make up early childhood EF, in which problem-solving and reasoning later emerge.

Instead of relying on intuition or instinct, EF focuses on the mental processing of new information, situations, observations, and events that would help an individual make sound decisions. Hence, EF entails mental flexibility, emotional regulation, and a higher level of thinking.

What To Know About Executive Functioning

Here are five of the most important things you need to know about EF:

  • Assessing Executive Functioning 

Executive functioning activities for children and EF screening are helpful in assessing their EF. An EF screener allows parents, teachers, and other professionals to discover a child’s executive functioning challenges that require attention. This screening method is based on the Likert scale, a five-point scale questionnaire enabling a person to express how much they agree or disagree with a specific statement.

  • Executive Functioning Skills

Executive function is divided into organization and regulation. Organization refers to collecting information and structuring obtained information for thorough evaluation. People with psychological problems have issues in picking up relevant information. Hence, they experience cognitive problems, hallucinations, and delusions.

On the other hand, regulation means taking stock of the surroundings and responding to it by modifying one’s behavior. It involves a person’s way of dealing with problems or coping strategies and adaptive skills to life’s circumstances and events, which are necessary for survival.

When an individual’s executive function is poor, they may have trouble controlling their own behavior or actions. This affects the person’s ability to go to school or work, maintain relationships, and do things independently.

Executive functioning skills are controlled in the brain’s frontal lobe, which helps a person in the following areas:

  • Time Management: Managing time is crucial in leadership and executive positions. Proper time management is also important for frontline employees and even in the household where tasks should be completed at specific periods.

  • Paying Attention: Tasks require a certain degree of attention, which dictates how fast it would take to complete it. The ability to focus on and complete a task is significant in psychological health. Some mental health disorders result in less attention on tasks and the inability to accomplish them.
  • Planning And Organization: These aspects involve a higher level of EF related to leadership or management roles requiring critical analysis and problem-solving skills.
  • Other Relevant Skills: These include the ability of a person to remember details, do specific tasks properly based on their experiences, and avoid doing or saying the wrong things.
  • Executive Functioning Is Part Of Every Aspect Of Life


Executive functions are essential to every facet of one’s life. This becomes more apparent when you consider that people with mental disorders such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), conduct disorder, and schizophrenia have problems with EF.

Here’s what experts say about impaired executive functions:

  • EF affects physical health, which is why people who are obese and prone to overeating tend to have poorer EF.
  • People with higher EF have a better quality of life. In academics, executive functioning is said to be more important for school preparedness than math skills, reading skills, or intelligence quotient (IQ).
  • Poor EF is also thought to cause lower productivity and work problems.
  • People with impaired executive functions might act impulsively, be difficult to get along with, be unable to sustain healthy long-term relationships, and be less dependable than those with good EF.
  • Inadequate EF may lead to social problems such as emotional outbursts, reckless behavior, violence, and even crime.

  • Inhibitory Control Capacity Is Trainable

Inhibition can influence the capacity of an individual to control and monitor their thoughts and actions, which start from early childhood. Research suggests that EF may be trainable with the right programs.

EF has important implications in child development, particularly in academics and socialization. Culture and adverse events in life can greatly affect EF. Researchers have used inhibitory control training for participants in their early childhood years, and more intensive training has yielded promising results.

Here are the other findings of the inhibitory control or IC research:

  • Socioeconomic Status Affects EF And IC Development: Exposure to low socioeconomic opportunity or poverty can affect a child’s cognitive and EF development. Children from low-income families tend to underperform compared to those from high-income families, but their adaptive strengths are better.

  • Language Training Affects IC: Language training, such as asking the child to use the correct word for a particular item within a bigger category of items, has a positive impact on inhibitory control.
  • Mindfulness Training Approach: This training capitalizes on EF processes, helping improve attention and focus and reduce anxiety symptoms in children. 
  • Executive Function Deficit Disorder


ADHD has to do with executive function trouble or executive function deficit disorder (EFDD), which includes problems in planning, organizing, and self-regulating. Parents can help their children with ADHD gain more independence by showing compassion, enforcing accountability, writing important information down, offering rewards, and aiming for hands-on or experiential learning.


It takes critical analysis and self-control efforts to achieve a high level of EF, which includes planning, problem-solving, and logical reasoning. Building EF skills is vital in attaining success in academics and psychological and social development. With adequate training, children and adults alike can benefit from enhancing their thought and emotion processing to become better individuals and invaluable assets to society.

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