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Executive Function

Executive Function: An umbrella-like concept that consists of a number of higher-level cognitive processes linked to the development of the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Executive function involves managing one’s thoughts to engage in goal directed behavior and to exercise self-control. (Santrock, 2014)

According to research, executive function is a better indicator of school readiness than general IQ. Three to eleven year-old children with greater inhibitory control were more likely to remain in school, less likely to engage in risky behavior, and less likely to be using drugs as adolescents. Children with superior inhibitory control were in better physical and mental health, were less likely to be obese, earned more money in their careers, were more law-abiding, and were happier thirty years after their initial evaluation.

(Moffitt, 2012; Moffitt & others, 2011)

Parents and teachers play vital roles in the development of executive function.

There is a relationship between executive function and parenting skills and the academic achievement of homeless children. According to Masten, there is a correlation between executive function and parenting skills. According to her, "when we observe children with strong executive function, we frequently observe adults who are good self-regulators." Parents demonstrate, encourage, and scaffold these skills"

(Herbers & others, 2011; Masten, 2013; Masten & others, 2008; Masten, 2012, p. 11.)

How might Executive Function advances developmental

How might Executive Function be linked to children’s success in school?

How might Executive Function be increased?

Kuhn (2009) argues further that the most significant cognitive change during adolescence is the enhancement of executive function. Our discussion of Executive Function in adolescents focuses on the monitoring and management of cognitive resources, critical thinking, and decision making.

(Kuhn, 2009)


Decision making

When people are calm rather than emotionally charged, most people tend to make better decisions. This is frequently especially true for adolescent. Adolescents frequently exhibit high emotional arousal. So, the same adolescent who makes a sensible choice when calm could do the opposite when feeling emotionally excited. Adolescents’ emotions may therefore become especially overwhelming while making decisions in the heat of the moment.

(Steinberg, 2012, 2013; Giedd & others, 2012)

Adolescent decision-making is heavily influenced by the social environment. Adolescents are more inclined to take risks, for instance, in situations where drink, drugs, and other temptations are easily accessible. The presence of peers in risk-taking circumstances enhances the likelihood that adolescents would make risky decisions, according to recent research. The presence of friends boosted an adolescent's decision to engage in dangerous driving by 50% (Read more about Peer Pressure) in one study on risk taking using a simulated driving task, but had no effect on adults. According to one theory, social interaction boosts the brain's reward system, particularly the dopamine pathways.

(Steinberg, 2011; Reyna & Rivers, 2008; Albert & Steinberg, 2011a, b; Gardner & Steinberg, 2005; Albert & Steinberg, 2011a, b).

Adolescents require more chances to debate and practice making realistic decisions. Real-world decisions on things like sex, drugs, and risky driving frequently take place under pressure due to time restraints and emotional involvement.

One strategy for improving adolescent decision making in such circumstances is to provide more opportunities for them to engage in role playing and group problem solving. Another strategy is for parents to involve adolescents in appropriate decision-making activities.

(Santrock, 2014)


Critical Thinking

Presenting students with controversial topics or the opportunity to discuss both sides of an issue is one strategy for encouraging students to think critically. Arguments are allegedly not "nice" or "polite," so some teachers avoid having students debate issues. However, debates can encourage students to examine issues and delve deeper into a subject, particularly if teachers refrain from expressing their own opinions to allow students to explore multiple perspectives.

(Osborne, 2010; Winn, 2004)

Mindfulness is an important mental process that children can engage in to improve a number of cognitive and socio-emotional skills, such as executive function, focused attention, emotion regulation, and empathy, according to recent research by Robert Roeser and Philip Zelazo. Using age-appropriate activities that increase children's reflection on moment-to-moment experiences to improve self-regulation, mindfulness training has been proposed to be implemented in schools.

(Roeser & Zelazo, 2012)


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