Variation in verbal fluency: A latent variable analysis of clustering, switching, and overall performance

Nash Unsworth, Gregory J. Spillers, Gene A. Brewer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

155 Scopus citations


Verbal fluency tasks have long been used to assess and estimate group and individual differences in executive functioning in both cognitive and neuropsychological research domains. Despite their ubiquity, however, the specific component processes important for success in these tasks have remained elusive. The current work sought to reveal these various components and their respective roles in determining performance in fluency tasks using latent variable analysis. Two types of verbal fluency (semantic and letter) were compared along with several cognitive constructs of interest (working memory capacity, inhibition, vocabulary size, and processing speed) in order to determine which constructs are necessary for performance in these tasks. The results are discussed within the context of a two-stage cyclical search process in which participants first search for higher order categories and then search for specific items within these categories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-466
Number of pages20
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Executive functions
  • Individual differences
  • Verbal fluency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


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