Modularity and Dissociations in Memory Systems
Robert G. Crowder Yale University
A cynical attitude toward progress in psychology is that we simply move back and forth between well-defined polarities, on pendulum swings, without really getting anywhere. Personally, I much prefer the model of a helix, in which we can recognize steady progress in one direction while not denying oscillations of perspective on certain other issues. One unmistakable trend that has been sweeping across the behavioral and cognitive sciences is the advancement of genetic explanations over environmental explanations. This is easy to find in such diverse fields as linguistics, intelligence, personality, and mental health, to say nothing of medicine. My grandparents were staunch believers in genetic causation, too, but I like to think we now have better reasons for our attitudes than they did.
A different trend back to earlier ideas is becoming evident in the reappearance of faculty psychology in cognition, generally, and in the analysis of memory, in particular. Publication of Fodor Modularity of Mind ( Fodor, 1983) only celebrates this newest cycle. The histories of such topics as localization of function in the brain and the interpretation of intelligence put the trend in perspective. The impulse to subdivide memory into isolated subsystems should be appreciated as a manifestation of Fodor's views, with modularity itself manifesting a historical rhythm that governs our approach to many of the great issues.
In this first section of the chapter, I identify two very different interpretations of what modularity could mean in memory, one that may well be generally accepted