Executive Functions

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The executive system is a theorized cognitive system in psychology that controls and manages other cognitive processes. It is also referred to as the executive function, supervisory attentional system, or cognitive control. The concept is used by psychologists and neuroscientists to describe a loosely defined collection of brain processes that are responsible for planning, cognitive flexibility, abstract thinking, rule acquisition, initiating appropriate actions and inhibiting inappropriate actions, and selecting relevant sensory information.

The executive functions are often invoked when it is necessary to override responses that might otherwise be automatically elicited by stimuli in the external environment. For example, on being presented with a potentially rewarding stimulus, such as a tasty piece of chocolate cake, a person might have the automatic response to take a bite. However, where such behavior conflicts with internal plans (such as having decided not to eat chocolate cake while on a diet), the executive functions might be engaged to inhibit that response.

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