PSYC 352 Final: Executive Functioning

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7 Sep 2020
Basic assumptions about learning to think on our own
o The mind is “computational”
The “hardware” is the brain, the “software” is the processes by which
information is registered, interpreted, stored, retrieved, analyzed
o There are limitations based on the architecture of the system
Maturation and strategy-use abilities can be rate limiting factors
o Information flows through the system
“Bottom-up” is when information comes in and enters short-term working
memory on its own (attentional capture, salience)
“Top-down” is when information in long-term memory biases what
gets attended to and entered into short-term memory
Developmental limitations and developmental growth can occur
within any of the boxes or arrows of memory model
Executive functioning an overarching term used to talk about cognitive processes
important for planning and executing intentional action, includes…
o Short-term and working memory
Mechanism that allows you to keep limited “bits” of information active and
available for guiding intentional action
Memory span refers to items that can be recalled in exact order -> young children
can’t remember as many items as older children can
o Inhibition, selective attention, cognitive flexibility
o Speed of processing (Kail, 1991, 2007)
Took all tasks (mental rotation, memory search, visual search, name retrieval,
mental addition) and looked at how fast children able to do that particular task,
and how that changes over time
How fast you’re able to do it is supposed to be how efficient you are
All basically showed same patterns of rapid change from 8- to 12/13-year-olds
Although tasks have different demands, speed of execution changes similarly
Changes from neuro-maturational processes -> Myelination in associative cortex
What Causes Development?
Span of apprehension: the sensory “buffer” where you keep the information you’re experiencing
Knowledge and expertise (chess playing example)
o 10-year-old experts can remember more “game piece positions” than they can random
digits, implying better memory for things where we have expertise (which develops)
o Capacity of working memory devoted to thinking about chess substantially more than
random numbers… Adults show opposite pattern
o Not just hardware differences, but different ways you interact with game pieces that
influence different working memory with that compared to random number
o Not only can we expect older people to have better “machinery” but also had all these
experiences along the way that could also be affecting their performance on these tasks
Maybe digit spans increase partly because of “capacity” but also because of fluency with numbers
Linguistic influences
o Chinese children have larger digit spans than North American counterparts, and this may
be in part because their count list is more quickly articulated and encoded
Cognitive Inhibition
Cognitive inhibition: ability to suppress a conflicting, prepotent response to successfully execute
some intentional action
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