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26-09-2015 | Original Article | Uitgave 6/2016

Psychological Research 6/2016

Latent profiles of executive functioning in healthy young adults: evidence of individual differences in hemispheric asymmetry

Psychological Research > Uitgave 6/2016
Holly K. Rau, Yana Suchy, Jonathan E. Butner, Paula G. Williams


Two competing theoretical models of individual differences in executive functioning (EF) were examined: the Prefrontal Convexity Model and the Hemispheric Asymmetry Model. Neurologically healthy individuals (N = 315; mean age 20.8) completed a modified switching task (MST) and the Attention Network Test (ANT) in a single testing session. Data analysis was conducted in two phases. In the first phase (model identification), latent profile analysis was applied to MST variables measuring the abilities to form, switch, and maintain mental sets under conditions designed to tax left or right hemisphere resources. In the second phase (model validation), participant clusters obtained from the first phase were compared on the ANT. The Model Identification phase yielded a 3-profile solution consistent with the Hemispheric Asymmetry Model. Profile 1 (N = 203) was characterized by average EF performances. Profile 2 (N = 43) revealed a set maintenance weakness under non-verbal conditions. Profile 3 (N = 38) demonstrated weaknesses in cognitive flexibility combined with poor executive performances under verbal conditions. The Model Validation phase confirmed group differences. Profile 1 demonstrated average EF performances. Profile 2 demonstrated distractibility and decreased alertness, consistent with a right hemisphere weakness. Profile 3 demonstrated cognitive rigidity in the absence of external cues, consistent with a left hemisphere weakness. Individual differences in EF appear to follow a Hemispheric Asymmetry Model of EF among neurologically healthy adults. Investigating the relationship between hemispherically mediated executive functions and other individual difference factors known to confer health risk or resilience could inform numerous disciplines within the field of psychology.

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