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Executive Function & Theory of Mind

Primary Components

A conceptual distinction is commonly made between “cold” and “hot” executive functions (EF):

  • Cold EF refers to mechanistic, higher-order cognitive operations: such as working memory, inhibition, planning, flexibility, verbal fluency
  • Hot EF entails cognitive abilities supported by emotional awareness and social perception: that is, social cognition or “theory of mind.”

Theory of mind is an essential social-cognitive skill, considered crucial for success in everyday human social interactions. It refers to the individual’s capacity to understand others by ascribing “mental states” to them—that is, their beliefs, desires, intentions, emotions and thoughts. This includes the knowledge that others’ mental states may be different from one’s own—and why. 

It’s called a theory of mind because it reflects one’s own beliefs about what might be going on in another person’s head. These are theories, not predictions. An individual has no way of knowing what another person might be thinking. Theories develop based on what people say, how they act, what is known about their personalities and what can be inferred about their intentions. 

Read more about symptoms and CFI’s treatment options for ADHD.



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