Associations between executive functions assessed in different contexts in a genetically informative sample


Executive functions (EFs) are cognitive functions that help direct goal-related behavior. EFs are usually measured via behavioral tasks assessed in highly controlled laboratory settings under the supervision of a research assistant. Online versions of EF tasks are an increasingly popular alternative to in-lab testing. However, researchers do not have the same control over the testing environment during online EF assessments. To assess the extent to which EFs assessed in-lab and online are related, we used data from the Colorado Online Twin Study (CoTwins; 887 individual twins aged 13.98–19.05) and constructed an Lab Common EF factor and an Online Common EF factor from four EF tasks assessed in-lab and online. The Lab Common and Online Common EF factors were genetically identical (rA = 1.00) but phenotypically separable (r = .77, 95% confidence interval [0.59, 0.94]) indicating that these EF factors have the same genetic underpinnings but may be differentially influenced by environmental factors. We examined phenotypic, genetic, and environmental correlations between the EF factors and a general cognitive ability factor (g) assessed in the lab and found similar relationships between Lab Common EF and g and Online Common EF and g. Overall, these results suggest that Common EF factors assessed in different contexts are highly related to each other and similarly related to other cognitive outcomes. These findings indicate that online task-based EF assessments could be a viable strategy for increasing sample sizes in large-scale studies, particularly genetically informed studies. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved)

Journal of Experimental Psychology: General