What They Are, How They Work, and Why They Evolved
Written by Russell A. Barkley
This groundbreaking volume offers a comprehensive theory of executive functioning (EF) that has critical clinical implications. Synthesizing cutting-edge neuropsychological and evolutionary research, Barkley presents a model of EF that helps explain people’s strengths and weaknesses in actual life activities – not just laboratory tasks. Key stages of EF development are identified and the far-reaching personal and social costs of EF deficits detailed. Barkley also describes specific ways that his model may support much-needed advances in assessment and treatment.
The book begins by reviewing the limitations of current views of EF, including the lack of consensus definition and the poor ecological validity of psychometric assessment approaches. Barkley draws on the concept of the extended phenotype to elaborate a clinically relevant conceptualization of EF as an evolutionary adaptation. He examines how EF develops in discrete stages as individuals acquire the cognitive and behavioral skills to pursue goal-directed activities, including time management, organization and problem solving, self-restraint, self-motivation, and self-regulation of emotions. Going beyond the integral role of EF in individual success, the book argues that it is an essential part of our social ecology – the basis for human social reciprocity, exchange, trade, and co-operation. The concluding chapter explore how Barkley’s theory facilitates a better understanding of why EF deficits occur, how they can be measured, and the principles of effective intervention.
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