The Role of Executive Functions in Reading Comprehension

Reese Butterfuss, Panayiota Kendeou

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Our goal in this paper is to understand the extent to which, and under what conditions, executive functions (EFs) play a role in reading comprehension processes. We begin with a brief review of core components of EF (inhibition, shifting, and updating) and reading comprehension. We then discuss the status of EFs in process models of reading comprehension. Next, we review and synthesize empirical evidence in the extant literature for the involvement of core components of EF in reading comprehension processes under different reading conditions and across different populations. In conclusion, we propose that EFs may help explain complex interactions between the reader, the text, and the discourse situation, and call for both existing and future models of reading comprehension to include EFs as explicit components.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)801-826
Number of pages26
JournalEducational Psychology Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Writing of this paper was supported by grant R324A160064 from the US Department of Education to the University of Minnesota. The opinions are those of the authors and do not represent the policies of the US Department of Education.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.


  • Discourse processes
  • Executive functions
  • Reading comprehension


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