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executive attention

the kind of selective attention that typically acts on the contents of working memory and directs subsequent processing so as achieve some goal

executive processes

processes that modulate the operation of other processes and that are responsible for the coordination of mental activity so that a particular goal is achieved

closed head injury

injury caused by an external bump that does not pierce the skull

Phineas Gage

In 1848, a 3 foot long rod called a tamping rod flew through his skull, below the left cheekbone and exiting through the top of his skulll. Left him radically changed. He became irresponsible, impulsive, given to fits of temper and profanity

Dr. P

A former successful middle-aged surgeon who, after undergoing minor facial surgery, he lost some brain function after suffering from being deprived from oxygen. He no longer could juggle competing demands, couldn't plan towards a goal.

Frontal-lobe syndrome

Loss of focus, ability to plan ahead, and failed attention switching due to some sort of injury or illness

prefrontal cortex

the brain area involved is not the entire frontal lobe, but only the anterior part

frontal executive hypothesis

the idea that every executive process process is primarily mediated by the PFC. Widely accepted for a long time, and has fueled much research, but is overstated.

Wisconsin card sort task

Four stimulus cards are set in front of participant, each with a distinctive set of number, design, and color. Person must figure out what rule to sort by through the researcher, who then switches the rule without warning and tests how long it takes the person to change

Tower of Hanoi

Involves three pegs and three different-size disks. The goal is to move all three from one peg to another without putting a bigger one on top of a smaller one. All must be planned in head beforehand. Very difficult for those with damage to the dorsolateral PFC

executive dysfunction

now observed in children with learning disabilities and in adults who are markedly disorganized and failing in their careers

stimulus-response compatibility

a measure of the degree to which the assignment of the correct response to a stimulus is consonant with the way people would act naturally

attention controller

contains an indication of the current goal and adds activation to nodes relevant to that goal

conflict monitor

monitors the amount of conflict between the nodes at the response level, and as conflict increases, the monitor engages executive attention.

incongruent-eligible condition

the color names could also occur as ink colors, and hence are possible responses

incongruent-ineligible condition

the ink colors to be name are different than the color words to be ignored

automatic process

a task that can be initiated without intention, that operates very rapidly, and can operate without consciousness

awareness consciousness

a state in which you are aware of the stimuli and events presented to you

introspective consciousness

a state in which you are aware not only of external stimuli but also of internal representations and processes

switching attention

focus of attention is moved from one entity to another

switching cost

the time difference between response time to pure blocks versus alternating blocks

alternating blocks

sets with alternating tasks

pure blocks

sets with only one task


an analysis in which one pools the results of numerous studies, and tests statistically whether the studies are showing the same effects

clustering algorithm

a computer program that determines whether the peaks fall into clusters rather than being evenly distributed throughout the brain

response inhibition

the suppression of a partially prepared response

stop-signal delay

the length of time between question and stop signal in Logan (1983)

stop signal

a tone is sounded which directs participants to stop their processing on that trial and not answer the question


coding information about the order of events in working memory


the assessment of one's performance on a task while the task is being performed

error-related negativity

a negative deflection in the ERP wave that begins about the time of an error, often slightly before it, and peaks roughly 100 milliseconds after the error

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