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Nativism versus neuroconstructivism: rethinking the study of developmental disorders

By Annette Karmiloff-Smith


This article argues that one dominant position in psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, and philosophy about how genetic disorders point to the innate specification of dissociated modules in the human brain should be replaced by a dynamic, neuroconstructivist approach in which genes, brain, cognition, and environment interact multidirectionally. The article challenges current thinking about a series of questions: (a) Do significantly better scores in one domain necessarily indicate an intact module? (b) What do scores in the normal range suggest? (c) What is wrong with mental-age matching? (d) Why is the notion of an intact module unlikely? (e) Do developmental disorders suggest associations rather than dissociations? (f) Is the environment the same for atypically developing individuals? The article concludes by examining the implications of taking a neuroconstructivist approach and by arguing that human intelligence is not a state (i.e., not a collection of static, built-in modules that can be intact or impaired) but a process (i.e., the emergent property over developmental time of dynamic, multidirectional interactions between genes, brain, cognition, behavior, and environment) with domain-specific outcomes impossible without the process of development

Topics: psyc
Publisher: American Psychological Association
Year: 2009
DOI identifier: 10.1037/a0014506
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