Executive Function and Theory of Mind in Children with ADHD: A Systematic Review

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Pineda-Alhucema, Wilmar
Aristizabal, Edith
Escudero-Cabarcas, Johana
Acosta-López, Johan
Vélez, Jorge I.

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In developmental research, the relationship between Executive Function (EF) and Theory of Mind (ToM) has been extensively assessed, and EF has been considered a condition for ToM. However, few researchers have studied the relationship between EF and ToM in clinical populations, especially that of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by symptoms of inattention and motor hyperactivity/impulsivity, in which EF is largely impaired. Using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) model, 201 English and Spanish articles evaluating EF and ToM in ADHD were chosen. Fifteen papers met the inclusion criteria and were selected for further analysis. The first study dates from 2001. Most of the studies’ designs are cross-sectional, include mostly male children, have a small sample size, and were conducted in European countries. Unlike tasks assessing EF, tasks assessing ToM were heterogeneous across studies. The EFs most correlated with ToM were inhibitory control, working memory, cognitive flexibility, and attention. Interest in studying the relationship between EF and ToM in ADHD is recent,but increasing based on new findings and tuning of ToM instruments. However, while an association between EF and ToM is indicated in ADHD, the degree of prediction and predictability of one over the other cannot yet be established because of the studies’ heterogeneity.


Palabras clave

Theory of mind, Executive function, ADHD, Inhibitory control, Social cognition