The Myth of Executive Functioning: What is Executive Functioning?

You may have heard the term “Executive Functioning” and wondered what it meant. This is a term which is being used more and more frequently.

So, let’s start de-mystifying Executive Functioning, which we will call EF going forward.

EF is primarily proccessed in the Frontal Lobe of the brain, in the Pre-Frontal Cortex.

EF involves 2 main areas of brain processing:

  1. Inhibition of Responses: Impulse control/self-restraint (e.g., stopping yourself from making an inappropriate comment, or acting inappropriately)
  2. Awareness: Awareness of own thoughts and emotions. Also self-speech/internalized speech (e.g., thinking to yourself about how you are going to do something, or thinking to yourself about the consequences of doing something, before you do it)

These brain processes are the foundation for many other types of executive functions, listed below, all of which assist us achieve goals, act in appropriate ways, and follow through with tasks:

  1. Concentration
  2. Working Memory: holds information long enough to be processed into short term, and then long term memory
  3. Emotion Regulation: Ability to regulate emotions/emotional reactions
  4. Planning
  5. Problem Solving
  6. Time Management
  7. Self-Motivation/Self Initiative
  8. Organization

Without these types of EF processes, decisions are made quickly in the moment without thinking of the consequences, and it is very difficult to multi-task, complete even simple tasks, follow social conversations, and understand social cues: and, this is some of what can happen when ADHD disrupts Executive Functioning.
Check out September’s blog to learn more about how ADHD impacts EF. 

Until September,
Leah Murphy, Psy.D

Licensed PA Psychologist

Center For Psychology & Counseling



Cited References:
Barkley, Russell, A. (2013). ADHD: Executive Functioning, Life Course, and Outcomes Management. Premier Education Solutions/

Executive Function