Attention, Memory, and Executive Function

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The absence of consensual, cross-disciplinary theories, definitions, and methodologies has hampered the study of attention, memory, and executive function. Incorporating different theoretical perspectives, this exceptional volume helps establish some common understanding of these three central processes. This book reveals how the authors' findings from their research in psychology, neuropsychology, special education, and medicine can help clinicians assess and remediate reading and attention disorders. Valuable directions for future research are also offered.

"...incorporating different theoretical perspectives, the text reveals how the authors' findings from their research in neuropsychology,psychology,special ed,& medicine can help clinicians assess & remediate reading & attention disorders.

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Editorial Reviews

From a 1994 working conference at the National Institutes of Health, Rockville, Maryland, researchers in psychology, neuropsychology, special education, and medicine present theory and research on three central cognitive processes--attention, memory, and executive function--and explain how their findings can help clinicians assess and remediate reading and attention disorders. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781557668561
  • Publisher: Brookes, Paul H. Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 10/28/1995
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 829,724
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Krasnegor is a physiological and experimental psychologist whose current research interests lie in developmental and behavioral biology, learning, and cognitive development.

G. Reid Lyon, Ph.D., is a psychologist in the Human Learning and Behavior Branch of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Lyon is responsible for the development and management of research programs in learning disabilities, language development and disorders, and disorders of attention in children.

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Read an Excerpt

Copyright © 1996 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

The Need for Conceptual and Theoretical Clarity in the Study of Attention, Memory, and Executive Function

Human learning and behavior are dependent upon the ability to pay attention to critical features in the environment; retain and retrieve information; and select, deploy, monitor, and control cognitive strategies to learn, remember, and think. Without these abilities, we could not plan, solve problems, or use language. Likewise, being absent of the capacity to attend, remember, and organize and structure data within our world, we would be incapable of modifying our behavior when confronted with new situations. More directly, it would be impossible to generalize what we already know to novel situations and to acquire new concepts and strategies in coping with current, anticipated, and forthcoming events if we were not vigilant and attentive, if we could not remember the relevant cues in the environment that led to previous reinforcement, and if we were not strategic in our efforts. Thus, attention, memory, and executive function (mental control processes) play a central role in thinking, problem solving, and other complex symbolic activities involved in oral language, reading, writing, mathematics, and social behavior.

Our understanding of the development of attention, memory, and executive function take on added importance when one considers that deficits in any of these three processes typically result in difficulties succeeding in school and in the work force. The impact of attentional disorders on learning and behavior is significant. Youngsters manifesting the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder constitute the largest number of children now referred for diagnostic evaluations (see Chapter 4). Moreover, it is known that defective attentional mechanisms have long-term serious implications for children's development of memory strategies as well as intellectual and cognitive functions, including executive function (Douglas, 1980). Unfortunately, our ability to chart the specific relationships between attention, memory, and executive function has been hampered by fuzzy definitions of these domains and competition among theories and models to explain their development or lack of development.

More specifically, the central importance of attention, memory, and executive function in our development, learning, and behavior begs for a more complete theoretical and conceptual understanding of these domains. While each of the domains has a rich a history and literature, knowledge about each remains limited and fragmented. This is primarily because scientists exploring these areas approach their investigative tasks with widely divergent basic assumptions, questions, and methodologies. Researchers studying attention frequently use a variety of vocabularies and employ different theories to test their hypotheses. A review of research on memory processes reveals enormous differences in how memory is conceptualized and studied. Likewise, the study of executive function is confounded significantly by variations in definitions and confusions with other cognitive processes.

Given the substantial debate and confusion about how best to conceptualize, operationalize, and assess the domains of attention, memory, and executive function, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) sponsored a working conference to produce a state-of-the-art review about current thinking in these areas and the application of this knowledge to our understanding of child development in general and learning disabilities in particular. In order to accomplish this review, the NICHD relied heavily upon the expertise of Dr. Russell Barkley (University of Massachusetts), Dr. Jack Fletcher (University of Houston), Dr. Robin Mo

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Table of Contents

I Introduction to the Conceptual, Measurement, and Methodological Issues 1
1 The Need for Conceptual and Theoretical Clarity in the Study of Attention, Memory, and Executive Function 3
2 Relationships and Distinctions Among the Concepts of Attention, Memory, and Executive Function: A Developmental Perspective 11
3 Conceptual and Methodological Issues in Construct Definition 17
II Attention 43
4 Critical Issues in Research on Attention 45
5 A Theory of Attention: An Information Processing Perspective 57
6 Disorders of Attention: A Neuropsychological Perspective 71
7 Attention: A Behavior Analytical Perspective 97
8 Conceptualizing, Describing, and Measuring Components of Attention: A Summary 119
III Memory 137
9 From Simple Structure to Complex Function: Major Trends in the Development of Theories, Models, and Measurements of Memory 139
10 A Model of Memory from an Information Processing Perspective: The Special Case of Phonological Memory 157
11 Multiple Memory Systems: A Neuropsychological and Developmental Perspective 185
12 Attention and Memory in Relation to Learning: A Comparative Adaptation Perspective 199
13 Conceptualizing, Describing, and Measuring Components of Memory: A Summary 221
IV Executive Function 233
14 Theories, Models, and Measurements of Executive Functioning: An Information Processing Perspective 235
15 A Theory and Model of Executive Function: A Neuropsychological Perspective 263
16 Relational Frame Theory and Executive Function: A Behavioral Approach 279
17 Linkages Between Attention and Executive Functions 307
18 Executive Functions and Working Memory: Theoretical and Measurement Issues 327
19 Addressing Problems in Attention, Memory, and Executive Functioning: An Example from Self-Regulated Strategy Development 349
20 Conceptualizing, Describing, and Measuring Components of Executive Function: A Summary 367
V Summary and Conclusions 397
21 Critical Issues and Future Directions in the Development of Theories, Models, and Measurements for Attention, Memory, and Executive Function 399
Index 413
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