Does the Iowa Gambling task measure executive function?

David A. Gansler, Matthew W. Jerram, Tracy D. Vannorsdall, David J. Schretlen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) is assumed to measure executive functioning, but this has not been empirically tested by means of both convergent and discriminant validity.We used structural equation modeling (SEM) to test whether the IGT is an executive function (EF) task (convergent validity) and whether it is not related to other neuropsychological domains (discriminant validity). Healthy community-dwelling participants (N = 214) completed a comprehensive neuropsychological battery. We analyzed the conventional IGT metric and three alternative metrics based on the overall difference of advantageous minus disadvantageous choices made during the last 60 IGT responses and advantageous minus disadvantageous choices based on two specific decks of cards (D minus A). An a priori six-factor hierarchical model of neuropsychological functioning was confirmed with SEM. Attention and processing speed were grouped as "non-associative" factors. Fluency, executive functioning, visual learning/memory, and verbal learning/memory were grouped as higher-level "associative" factors. Of the non-associative factors, attention, but not speed, predicted IGT performance. When each associative factor was entered along with attention, only EF improved the model fit and that was only for metrics based on trials 41-100. SEM indicates metrics based on trails 1-100 are influenced by attention, and metrics based on trails 41-100 are influenced by attention and EF. Its associative strength with attention is twice that of EF. Conceptually, the IGT is a multi-trait task involving novel problem-solving and attentional domains to a greater extent, and executive functioning to a lesser extent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)706-717
Number of pages12
JournalArchives of Clinical Neuropsychology
Volume26
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011

Keywords

  • Decision-making
  • Executive function
  • Iowa gambling task
  • Neuropsychological evaluation
  • Structural equation modeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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