Is intelligence equivalent to executive functions? Article

Ardila, Alfredo. (2018). Is intelligence equivalent to executive functions? . PSICOTHEMA, 30(2), 159-164. 10.7334/psicothema2017.329

cited authors

  • Ardila, Alfredo



  • Background

    Since the mid 19th century, cognitive and behavioral neurosciences have attempted to find the neurological bases of intellectual abilities. During the early 20th century the psychometric concept of "intelligence" was coined; and toward the end of the 20th century the neuropsychological concept of "executive functions" was introduced. Controversies, however, remain about the unity or heterogeneity of so-called executive functions.


    It is proposed that two major executive functions could be separated: metacognitive -or intelectual- and emotional/motivational. A similar distinction has been suggested by several authors. Standard definitions of intelligence implicitly assume that executive functions represent the fundamental components of intelligence.


    Research has demonstrated that, if considered as a whole, executive functions only partially correspond to the psychometric concept of intelligence; whereas some specific executive functions clearly correspond to intelligence, some others do not involve intelligence.


    If using a major distinction between metacognitive -or simply "intellectual"-executive functions, and emotional/ motivational -or simply non-intellectual-executive functions, it becomes evident that general intelligence can be equated with metacognitive executive functions but not with emotional/ motivational executive functions.

publication date

  • May 1, 2018

published in


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Injuries
  • Child
  • Emotions
  • Executive Function
  • Frontal Lobe
  • Humans
  • Intelligence
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Metacognition
  • Models, Psychological
  • Motivation
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases
  • Prefrontal Cortex
  • Psychological Tests
  • Thinking
  • Verbal Behavior

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


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start page

  • 159

end page

  • 164


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