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Executive function in children with high and low attentional skills: Correspondences between behavioural and cognitive profiles


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Alison Scope, School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Regent court, 30 Regent Street, Sheffield, S14DA, UK (e-mail:


Cognitive performance was compared between two groups of typically developing children, who had been observed and rated as differing significantly in their attentional skills at school. The participants were 24 8- and 9-year-old children scoring poorly relative to peers, on a classroom observation scale and teacher rating scale for attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity [low-attentional skills (LAS) group] and 24 sex- and age-matched children scoring at a high level compared to peers [high-attentional skills (HAS) group]. The two groups were compared on a series of cognitive tasks to assess executive function (EF). The LAS group performed within the typical range yet at a significantly lower level than the HAS group on the majority of the EF tasks administered, namely working memory and inhibition measures, even though there were no significant differences between the groups on a measure of intellectual ability. Working memory measures followed by measures of inhibition emerged as the best predictors of group membership. These findings provide empirical evidence that there are individual differences in attentional skills. Specifically, that there is a relationship between behavioural inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity and cognitive performance on working memory and inhibitory control tasks.