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Duplications and domain-generality

Endress, A. (2019). Duplications and domain-generality. Psychological Bulletin, 145(12), pp. 1154-1175. doi: 10.1037/bul0000213


While specialized, adaptive behavioral traits are ubiquitous in the animal kingdom, at least in humans, there are considerable debates on whether the mind is primarily characterized by various special-purpose, domain-specific mechanisms, or by a few general-purpose, domain-general mechanisms. Drawing from research on artificial language learning, associative learning, serial learning, executive control and formal linguistics, I argue that neither domain-specificity nor domain-generality provide satisfactory descriptions when considering how cognitive mechanisms are implemented. I suggest that some cognitive mechanisms are “domain-bound” – they are available in multiple domains (and thus not domain-specific), but not in other domains (and thus not domaingeneral). Hence, these computations can be performed in many domains but not in others, can be recruited simultaneously by multiple domains, and, across domains, individual abilities with a given computation are relatively uncorrelated. Domainbound mechanisms have a straightforward evolutionary interpretation: Analogously to the evolution of molecular and morphological structures, cognitive mechanisms can become duplicated over evolution, with independent copies in different domains. This and previous evidence for the importance of duplications for our cognitive abilities call for a revision of the concept domaingenerality, suggesting that, in many cases, mechanisms traditionally seen as domain-general might really reflect a collection of local copies of specialized

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © American Psychological Association, 2019. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. Please do not copy or cite without author's permission. The final article is to be available, upon publication, at:
Publisher Keywords: Domain-Generality; Domain-Specificity; Domain-Boundedness; Artificial Grammar Learning; Duplication; Serial Learning; Statistical Learning; Executive Function; Perceptual or Memory Primitives
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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