Central Executive

The central executive, the most important yet least well understood component of Baddeley's (1986) working memory model, is postulated to be responsible for the selection, initiation, and termination of processing routines (e.g., encoding, storing, retrieving). Baddeley (1986, 1990) equates the central executive with the supervisory attentional system (SAS) described by Norman and Shallice (1980) and by Shallice (1982).

According to Shallice (1982), the supervisory attentional system is a limited capacity system and is used for a variety of purposes, including:

Extensive damage to the frontal lobes may result in impairments in central executive functioning. Baddeley (1986) coined the term dysexecutive syndrome (DES) to describe dysfunctions of the central executive The classic frontal syndrome is characterized by "disturbed attention, increased distractibility, a difficultly in grasping the whole of a complicated state of affairs...well able to work along old routines...(but)...cannot learn to master new types of task, in new situations...[the patient is]...at a loss' (Rylander, 1939, p.20). In other words, patients suffering from frontal lobe syndrome lack flexibility and the ability to control their processing resources, functions attributed to the central executive.

See Also:

Working Memory | Articulatory Loop | Visuospatial Sketchpad |


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