Individual differences in the executive control of attention, memory, and thought, and their associations with schizotypy

Michael J. Kane, Matt E. Meier, Bridget A. Smeekens, Georgina M. Gross, Charlotte A. Chun, Paul J. Silvia, Thomas R. Kwapil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A large correlational study took a latent-variable approach to the generality of executive control by testing the individual-differences structure of executive-attention capabilities and assessing their prediction of schizotypy, a multidimensional construct (with negative, positive, disorganized, and paranoid factors) conveying risk for schizophrenia. Although schizophrenia is convincingly linked to executive deficits, the schizotypy literature is equivocal. Subjects completed tasks of working memory capacity (WMC), attention restraint (inhibiting prepotent responses), and attention constraint (focusing visual attention amid distractors), the latter 2 in an effort to fractionate the "inhibition" construct. We also assessed mind-wandering propensity (via in-task thought probes) and coefficient of variation in response times (RT CoV) from several tasks as more novel indices of executive attention. WMC, attention restraint, attention constraint, mind wandering, and RT CoV were correlated but separable constructs, indicating some distinctions among "attention control" abilities; WMC correlated more strongly with attentional restraint than constraint, and mind wandering correlated more strongly with attentional restraint, attentional constraint, and RT CoV than with WMC. Across structural models, no executive construct predicted negative schizotypy and only mind wandering and RT CoV consistently (but modestly) predicted positive, disorganized, and paranoid schizotypy; stalwart executive constructs in the schizophrenia literature-WMC and attention restraint-showed little to no predictive power, beyond restraint's prediction of paranoia. Either executive deficits are consequences rather than risk factors for schizophrenia, or executive failures barely precede or precipitate diagnosable schizophrenia symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1017-1048
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Executive attention
  • Inhibition
  • Mind wandering
  • Schizotypy
  • Working memory capacity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Individual differences in the executive control of attention, memory, and thought, and their associations with schizotypy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this