Neuropsychological executive functioning and psychosocial well-being
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The aim of this study was to come to a better understanding of possible neuropsychological mechanisms underlying psycho-social well-being and therefore to determine whether a relationship between neuropsychological executive functions and psycho-social well-being does indeed exist. Research was conducted in the domains of neuropsychology and positive psychology. This thesis consists of three articles, namely I ) Neuropsychological executive functions and psycho-social well-being: A review, 2) Attentional switching and psycho-social! well-being, and 3) The relationship between generativity as neuropsychological process and psycho-social well-being. The first article argued the possibility of a relationship between neuropsychological and psycho-social aspects, with reference to a pluralistic ecosystems perspective, neuropsychological and other positive psychological theories, such as Miller's neuropsychodynamic model and Frederickson's broaden-and-build theory, as well as existing empirical studies. Numerous neuropsychological studies have indicated that the prefrontal cortex is involved in executive functions, with its main function to regulate both cognitive and affective functioning. Analyses of existing empirical studies indicated an established relationship between prefrontal lobe / executive / regulatory dysfunction and psychopathology, but also that the relationship between normal or optimal prefrontal executive functions and psycho-social well-being is still unclear. The first article concluded that evidence correlating neuropsychological functioning with human flourishing, or indicating possible neuropsychological mechanisms involved in psycho-social well-being, is sparse, presenting a serious lacuna in scientific knowledge. The following two articles focused on contributing to filling this lacuna. "Attentional switching and psycho-social well-being" and "The relationship between generativity, as neuropsychological process and psycho-social well-being" focused on attentional switching and generativity, as part of neuropsychological executive functions, as potential mechanisms associated with psycho-social well-being. These studies aimed to determine whether the capacity to switch attention, as measured by the Color Trails Test (CTT) and Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST), and the capacity to generate novelty, as measured by the Controlled Verbal Fluency Task (CVFT) (Benton, 1967) and Uses of Objects Test (UOT) (Getzels & Jackson, 1962), are related to the degree of psycho-social well-being experienced. As part of the interdisciplinary POWIRS (Profiles of Obese Women with Insulin Resistance Syndrome) project, black African women (article 2 n=66; article 3 n=72) completed the above mentioned neuropsychological measures, as well as indices of psycho-social well-being, in a cross-sectional design. The psycho-social measures included the Affectometer (AFM) 2 (Kammann & Flett, 1983); Constructive Thinking Inventory (CTI) abbreviated version (Epstein & Meier, 1989); Sense of Coherence Scale (SOC- 29) (Antonovsky, 1987, 1993); The Fortitude Questionnaire (FORQ) (Pretorius, 1998); JAREL Spiritual Well-being Scale (SWS-H) (Hungelman et al., 1989); Psychological Well-being Scales (SPW-B) (Ryff & Singer, 1998); and the Cognitive Appraisal Questionnaire (CAQ) (Botha & Wissing, 2003). The main findings of these studies were hat the ease of attentional switching and generativity correlates statistically (p<0.5) and practically significantly with higher levels of psychosocial well-being. From a micro-deterministic perspective it can be concluded that frontal lobe executive functions may play a role in the regulation higher-order adjusting psycho-social functions related to quality of life. From a micro-deterministic perspective it can be concluded that psycho-social well-being, while being influenced by executive functions, may also influence the continuous development of neuropsychological executive functions.
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