Executive Functions What They Are, How They Work, and Why They Evolved


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This groundbreaking book offers a comprehensive theory of executive functioning (EF) with important clinical implications. Synthesizing cutting-edge neuropsychological and evolutionary research, Russell A. Barkley presents a model of EF that is rooted in meaningful activities of daily life. He describes how abilities such as emotion regulation, self-motivation, planning, and working memory enable people to pursue both personal and collective goals that are critical to survival. Key stages of EF development are identified and the far-reaching individual and social costs of EF deficits detailed. Barkley explains specific ways that his model may support much-needed advances in assessment and treatment.


  • 1. Problems with the Concept of Executive Functioning
  • 2. The Extended Phenotype: A Foundation for Modeling Executive Functioning
  • 3. Executive Functioning as an Extended Phenotype
  • 4. The Instrumental-Self-Directed Level
  • 5. The Methodical-Self-Reliant Level
  • 6. The Tactical-Reciprocal Level 7. The Strategic-Cooperative Level
  • 8. The Extended Utilitarian Zone
  • 9. Implications for Understanding Executive Functioning and Its Disorders
  • 10. Implications for the Assessment and Clinical Management of Deficits in Executive Functioning

Author Bio:

Russell A. Barkley, PhD, ABPP, ABCN, is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. Dr. Barkley has worked with children, adolescents, and families since the 1970s and is the author of numerous bestselling books for both professionals and the public. He has also published six assessment scales and more than 300 scientific articles and book chapters on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, executive functioning, and childhood defiance, and is editor of the newsletter The ADHD Report. A frequent conference presenter and speaker who is widely cited in the national media, Dr. Barkley is past president of the Section on Clinical Child Psychology (the former Division 12) of the American Psychological Association (APA), and of the International Society for Research in Child and Adolescent Psychopathology. He is a recipient of awards from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the APA, among other honours.


“Barkley has never been one to shy away from new theories and ideas. He is perhaps one of the foremost critical thinkers of our time. Executive Functions is a tour de force of creativity and wide-ranging thinking. Barkley offers a reasoned and reasonable theory to understand the emerging field of EF and its related disorders. The chapter on clinical implications is particularly important for practitioners. This book is essential reading for researchers, clinicians, and students interested in the complexities of brain-behavior relationships and human adaptation.” – Sam Goldstein, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, University of Utah School of Medicine; Clinical Director, Neurology, Learning, and Behaviour Center, Salt Lake City

“Readers will find this book fascinating if they take the time to sift through Barkley’s findings along with the research data. I know I did, because I have a daughter who struggles with ADHD, and this book weaves the correlation between ADHD and executive functioning (EF) in a way that no other book (to my knowledge) has done before.” – The Chronical