Mental Retardation: The Developmental-Difference Controversy

By Edward Zigler; David Balla | Go to book overview

5 Rigidity-- A Resilient Concept*

Edward Zigler David Balla Yale University

Few views in the area of mental retardation have had the influence and the staying power of the formulation that retarded persons are inherently more rigid. This position was originally advanced by Lewin ( 1936) over 40 years ago and subsequently elaborated by Kounin ( 1939, 1941a, b, 1948). In the 3 decades following the original statements of the position, numerous empirical investigations on the issue were conducted. Perhaps even more importantly, it had a great deal of influence on the care, treatment, and training of retarded individuals ( Sarason & Gladwin, 1958). In recent years the rigidity position has been seen as being little more than a relic, of interest only in the context of the history of the mental retardation movement. It is our view that the view of rigidity as only a matter of history is inaccurate and that variants of the rigidity position, phrased in the current language of cognitive psychology, are still very much a part of the psychology of mental retardation. The current variants of the rigidity position are discussed following a presentation of the original position.

Although the rigidity position as advanced by Lewin and Kounin was widely accepted as a major theoretical breakthrough for the understanding of the behavior of retarded persons, it should be noted that the formulation has been surrounded by controversy since its inception. Much of the early controversy seems to have stemmed from a failure of investigators to deal adequately with both the definitional and methodological demands of the rigidity formulation. A

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*
Portions of this article appeared in Zigler E. "Rigidity in the Retarded: A Reexamination," in Readings on the Exceptional Child: Research and Theory, E. Trapp & P. Himelstein (Eds.), copyright 1972, 2nd ed., pp. 123-160. Reprinted by permission of Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

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