Developmental disorders and cognitive architecture

Edouard Machery

in Maladapting Minds

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199558667
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754647 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

Developmental disorders and cognitive architecture

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Ever since Broca and Wernicke, studies about the nature and structure of the normal human mind have been inspired by its pathological variants. Contemporary cognitive science and evolutionary psychology subscribe to this tradition, too. Thus it is that they often refer to cognitive impairments in patients suffering from developmental disorders to support one of today's leading hypotheses about the architecture of normal cognition, i.e. the so-called ‘massive modularity hypothesis’. In this chapter, I investigate whether this validation strategy can be safeguarded from Annette Karmiloff-Smith's well-known criticism. According to Karmiloff-Smith, developmental disorders are of no use in studying the architecture of normal cognition, because the abnormal minds develops abnormally, and therefore consists of cognitive systems that differ from the systems making up normal cognition. Put simply: studying mental disorders cannot provide us with any evidence about the architecture of the human mind. I argue against this conclusion by scrutinizing and debunking Karmiloff-Smith's arguments.

Chapter.  10505 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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