Modularity and Constraints in Language and Cognition

By Megan R. Gunnar; Michael Maratsos | Go to book overview
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1 Constraints, Modules, and Domain Specificity: An Introduction

Michael Maratsos University of Minnesota

The general topic of the 1990 Minnesota Symposium was modules, constraints, and domain specificity. This chapter is an introduction to some general ideas and problems in this area.


At its broadest, the problem of modern developmental psychology does not just reflect differences in investigator's beliefs about particular hypotheses regarding psychology and the development of children. It also reflects a clash between two major approaches or attitudes to scientific investigation.

A first goal is one of the oldest goals of science: the uniting of a wide range of apparently diverse phenomena by the positing of a relatively small set of general underlying principles. Indeed, achievement of this goal has been one of the time-honored closest-to-the-heart characteristics of science since ancient times. With the inception of Newtonian physics, it achieved such successes as to become a paradigm goal. To explain why the phenomena that the planets do not fall into the sun really comes from the same reasons that objects do fall onto the earth is the kind of triumph toward which all sciences have since aimed.

This goal is reflected by the attempts of behaviorists to find a few elementary principles and processes by which all behavior could be explained. In more modern times, it is reflected in a search to explain the mind by highly general principles that can be posited to underlie all the diverse areas of cognition. In developmental psychology, Piaget's theory


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