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Executive functions (EF) can be measured by tests assessing accuracy, reaction times and by computing scores which combine these two components. Interpretation issues can arise from the use of different scoring methods across studies. Given that EF measures and their scoring methods are predominantly developed and validated in high income countries, little is known about the generalisability of such methods cross- culturally. The current paper compares two different established scoring approaches for measures of inhibition and cognitive flexibility: difference scores (which utilise reaction time only) and computed scores (combining accuracy and reaction time). We utilised data collected in adulthood from three low- and middle-income birth cohorts (Guatemala, Philippines, South Africa). Non-normal distributions were observed for both scoring methods in all three samples; however, this was more pronounced for the difference score method. Differing distribution patterns were observed across the three cohorts, which was especially evident in the Guatemala cohort, highlighting potential issues with using these methods across diverse populations. The data suggest that the computed scores may be a reliable measure of EF. However, the different ways of scoring and interpreting EF instruments need to be considered carefully for each population before use.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Humans, Executive Function, Developing Countries, Birth Cohort, Guatemala, Income