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The Higher-Order Cognitive Functions

Executive functions are a complex term used as an umbrella for various hypothesized cognitive processes such as planning, memory, attention, inhibition, and self-monitoring performed by the prefrontal lobe. Abstract reasoning is an executive function that helps the human body reach a logical conclusion without physical data, concrete phenomena, or specific instances. It is a generalization about relationships and attributes as opposed to tangible objects.

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Inhibitory control is the ability to generate and control impulsive responses through attention and reasoning. It is attributed to anticipation, planning, and goal setting and plays an essential role in allowing and resisting interference from irrelevant stimuli. When one has dysfunction in inhibitory control function, they are vulnerable to several neuropsychiatric disorders. With self-monitoring, one is being able to evaluate one’s behavior and determine various approaches that are more appropriate. Morality is the ability to differentiate between intentions as either right or wrong (Banich & Compton, 2018). It relates to the skills of self-regulation and monitoring of human cognitive functions. These functions are considered higher-order functions because they are critical in understanding analogy, judgment, and decision-making. They are mental processes that enable people to plan, focus attention, remember, and work between multiple tasks successfully.

In conclusion, higher-order cognitive functions describe the complicated aspects of thought, thinking in an abstract and conceptual rather than concrete manner, and the ability to deduce the rule of regularity. They help ensure the ability to be flexible and respond to the novelty. People with a deficit in executive function are frequently struggling to monitor themselves and their work. They are unable to set goals and display efforts towards completing and achieving them. Therefore, people cannot focus, pay attention, and achieve the set goals when these functions are disrupted.


Banich, M., & Compton, R. (2018). Cognitive Neuroscience (4th ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Web.

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