Psicothema was founded in Asturias (northern Spain) in 1989, and is published jointly by the Psychology Faculty of the University of Oviedo and the Psychological Association of the Principality of Asturias (Colegio Oficial de Psicología del Principado de Asturias).
We currently publish four issues per year, which accounts for some 100 articles annually. We admit work from both the basic and applied research fields, and from all areas of Psychology, all manuscripts being anonymously reviewed prior to publication.

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Is intelligence equivalent to executive functions?

Alfredo Ardila

Florida International University

Background: Since the mid 19th century, cognitive and behavioral neurosciences have attempted to find the neurological bases of intellectual abilities. During the early 20th century the psychometric concept of “intelligence” was coined; and toward the end of the 20th century the neuropsychological concept of “executive functions” was introduced. Controversies, however, remain about the unity or heterogeneity of so-called executive functions. Method: It is proposed that two major executive functions could be separated: metacognitive –or intellectual– and emotional/motivational. A similar distinction has been suggested by several authors. Standard definitions of intelligence implicitly assume that executive functions represent the fundamental components of intelligence. Results: Research has demonstrated that, if considered as a whole, executive functions only partially correspond to the psychometric concept of intelligence; whereas some specific executive functions clearly correspond to intelligence, some others do not involve intelligence. Conclusions: If using a major distinction between metacognitive –or simply “intellectual”—executive functions, and emotional/ motivational – or simply non-intellectual—executive functions, it becomes evident that general intelligence can be equated with metacognitive executive functions but not with  emotional/ motivational executive functions.

¿Es inteligencia equivalente a funciones ejecutivas? Antecedentes: desde mediados del siglo XIX las neurociencias cognitivas y comportamentales han intentado hallar las bases neurológicas de las habilidades intelectuales. A comienzos del siglo XX se acuña el concepto psicométrico de “inteligencia”; y hacia finales del siglo XX se introduce el concepto neuropsicológico de “funciones ejecutivas”.  Sin embargo, continúan existiendo controversias acerca de la unidad o heterogeneidad de las llamadas funciones ejecutivas. Método: se propone que es posible distinguir dos funciones ejecutivas básicas: metacognitivas –o intelectuales– y emocionales/motivacionales. Diversos autores han propuesto una distinción similar. Las definiciones estándar de inteligencia implícitamente asumen que las funciones ejecutivas representan los componentes fundamentales de la inteligencia. Resultados: la investigación ha demostrado que, consideradas en conjunto, las funciones ejecutivas corresponden solo en forma parcial al concepto psicométrico de inteligencia; en tanto que algunas funciones ejecutivas claramente corresponden a inteligencia, otras no se asocian con la inteligencia. Conclusiones: utilizando la distinción entre funciones ejecutivas metacognitivas “o simplemente “intelectuales” –y funciones ejecutivas emocionales/motivacionales “o simplemente “no intelectuales”–, se hace evidente que la inteligencia general se puede equiparar con las funciones ejecutivas metacognitivas, pero no con las funciones ejecutivas emocionales/motivacionales.


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