Think of a person who can focus on a task for hours; recall obscure trivia facts; is always late to everything. These individuals have differing mastery of their Executive Functions.
Executive Functions (EFs) are the cognitive processes responsible for cueing, directing, and coordinating one's own perception, emotion, cognition, and action. Effective coordination and control of EFs allows one to take in and process information, plan actions, and execute on those plans. Conversely, ineffective mastery of EFs result in behaviors that lead to difficulties in school and work environments.
George McCloskey, a leading researcher, practitioner and lecturer in the field of EF, developed with his colleagues the "Holarchical Model of Executive Functions" (HMEF), which explains the five different levels of executive control. Among the five levels, our focus is on "Self-Regulation" - the 33 separate EFs that can be grouped into 7 clusters.
To illustrate EFs in an easily relatable manner, this page highlights problem behaviors likely to be exhibited in school settings by a student experiencing difficulties with self-regulation executive capacities.Attention Cluster
Perceive/Cue. Does not see signs, directions, etc.; does not hear directions; does not touch or handle materials; seems unaware of own thoughts and actions
Focus/Select. Does not attend to information being presented
Sustain. Has difficulty working on tasks for extended periods of time
Energize. Puts little energy or effort into work on school tasks
Initiate. Slow to get started with tasks; long pauses occur before a response is offered
Inhibit. Blurts out comments in class; acts impulsively; can't wait for turn
Stop. Continues even after being told to stop
Interrupt/Pause. Does not return to work on a task after a brief interruption
Flexible. Resists the idea of doing things a different way or feeling or thinking a different way; insists on doing things the same way
Shift. Has difficulty going from one activity to another or moving from one thought or feeling to another
Monitor. Doesn't check work for errors; has difficulty realizing when he/she has made a mistake; has a hard time identifying inaccurate thoughts or feelings
Modulate. Has difficulty adjusting activity level; is overactive or underactive; gets overstimulated or under stimulated; overreacts or underreacts to situations
Balance. Has difficulty finding the balance between extremes (speed vs. accuracy, quality vs. quantity; general vs. specific statements; depth vs. breadth; talking vs. listening, sharing too much vs. sharing too little; being humorous vs. being serious)
Correct. Has trouble correcting mistakes or apologizing for inappropriate behavior
Sense Time. Seems unaware of the passage of time; does not know how long he/she was working on a task or thinking about something
Pace. Has difficulty changing pace to go slower or go faster as conditions dictate
Sequence. Has difficulty getting the steps of a routine in the right order; performs sequenced tasks out of order
Execute. Has trouble effectively using routines that most children the same age have automated; lacks follow-through on tasks even when interested and attending
Hold. Has difficulty holding onto information for more than a few seconds
Manipulate. Has difficulty actively working with information that is being held in mind
Store. Has difficulty with storing information so it will be available for later use
Retrieve. Has difficulty retrieving stored information when needed
Gauge. Has difficulty "sizing up" what is needed to complete a task; under or over estimates the difficulty of tasks
Anticipate. Has difficulty looking ahead or anticipating what will be next; has difficulty considering the consequences of his or her actions before acting
Estimate Time. Is very poor at estimating the time or estimating how long it takes to do things
Analyze. Has difficulty with examining things in more detail to understand them better
Compare/Evaluate. Has difficulty evaluating the quality of his or her work or thinking; difficulty comparing one thing with another on various dimensions
Generate. Has difficulty coming up with a new idea or finding a novel solution to a problem
Associate. Has difficulty understanding or seeing how two or more things or ideas are similar
Organize. Has difficulty with arranging things or thoughts in an orderly manner
Plan. Has difficulty working out in advance a way of doing things or thinking about things
Decide. Has difficulty choosing among options; can't choose how to think, feel or act
Prioritize. Has difficulty assigning an order of importance to things or activities
Above information reprinted with permission from an upcoming book from George McCloskey.
Understanding where a child stands on these EFs provides a starting point for where a child faces barriers and where additional help and support could be beneficial. Identifor aims to contribute to a better understanding of a child's EF starting point, and over time help the child develop the deficient skills.
Of course we cannot hope to assess all these Self-Regulation EFs through our games - not even when we're much further along. We will, however, endeavor to use as much data from the various games to provide a glimpse into as many of these EFs as possible. Furthermore, we will enable the systematic use of the McCloskey Executive Function Survey (MEFS) to collect information about a child from parents, those people parents invite to provide feedback (e.g., educators, therapists, etc.) and even the child himself/herself if appropriate and possible. This 360° assessment of a child may provide valuable insights into areas of commonalities as well as areas of possible disconnects.
At the heart of Identifor's technology is GetAbby, an artificial intelligence platform that uses natural speech processing and a human avatar to enable players to have one-on-one conversations with Abby. Over time and as resources become available, we will train Abby to help players develop EF skills as all the research shows that EF skills are trainable. Since not everyone can work with Dr. McCloskey on a regular basis to build these EF skills, Abby hopes to provide a partial solution as Dr. McCloskey will train her to ask the questions he would ask, have the type of conversations he would have, etc. The aspiration is to make EF skill development much more accessible to any child who has a need.
For more information about Executive Function, explore: