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Executive Functions

Our executive functions represent elaborate functions which control our logical reasoning, strategy, planning, problem-solving, and hypothetical-deductive reasoning skills. Planning capacities help us determine an action plan and define and organize our priorities.

Several kinds of reasoning

Our executive functions help us solve all kinds of more or less complex problems of daily life. To assess the likely consequences of decision we are going to make, we usually just need to thoroughly analyze the context and the goal to be reached. There are three types of reasoning skills enabling us to better assess such situations:

Inferential reasoning

Inferential reasoning by means of hypotheses, deductions and inferences (hypothetical-deductive) is used when facing a new problem for which we have no "ready" solutions to apply. We are then forced to consider all elements of the problem, to deduce a solution by means of inference and/or to develop possible theories to find a solution.

Analogical reasoning

Analogical reasoning relates to adequately "recycling" a solution that was found to solve a past problem with common characteristics to the current problem.

Automatic reasoning

Automatic reasoning is more of process than actual reasoning. We usually use it in familiar situations, such as taking your car to go to work. It is done through the automatic application of knowledge stored in our procedural memory (lien vers page Mémoire – mémoire procédurale). These situations require little attention and barely cost any cognitive resources.


These are the steps to solve a problem:
  • 1. Problem analysis and definition of the goal to be reached. Choice of strategy - determining the action plan to solve the problem

  • 2. If the final goal is too difficult to reach in a single step, intermediate sub goals are defined, making it easier to progress towards the solution.

  • 3. Considering available means to reach the goal, as well as possible constraints

  • 4. Selection of a solution from amongst several possible solutions, Check the validity of the achieved result in comparison to the initial analysis.

  • 5. The ability to mentally create an image is plays an important part in defining a strategy and greatly contributes to an effective reasoning process. It allows to us create, imagine, or anticipate possible scenarios.

In daily life

We encounter many new and complex situations in daily life, like having to figure out why our car has broken down, finding the best itinerary for a trip, planning your gardening, finding the right move to beat your chess opponent...


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