Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory


Date of this Version

November 2002


An explosion of research activity in the area of attention, memory, and executive function has been noted since the mid-1980s (Lyon & Krasnegor, 1996). The bulk of this activity, however, has focused on the examination of group differences in executive skills, with less attention devoted to the manner by which individual children differ in executive skills from their peers. This chapter explores individual differences from a developmental perspective, that is, by returning to the emergence of basic executive functions and tracing the subsequent manifestations by examining the individual patterns of change. Therefore, it first reviews the history of executive function through critical case study descriptions and then discusses the current conceptualizations of executive functions. Traditional frameworks for understanding individual differences are described with emphasis on quasi-experimental designs commonly used in developmental neuropsychology. Finally, investigations concerning the performance of infants and young children on a particular executive function paradigm are reviewed because, according to the position herein, executive behavior is readily observable early in development.

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