Mental Retardation: The Developmental-Difference Controversy

By Edward Zigler; David Balla | Go to book overview
a reflection of certain features of the physiological or cognitive functioning of the individual and thus, must affect cognitive functioning over and above that predicted by the general cognitive level attained by the individual (p. 541]." It should now be clear to the reader that this statement does not characterize the stimulus trace theory. We make no predictions based on differential IQ of MA-matched subjects. Zigler ( 1969) goes on to state: "The crucial factor lies in the theorist's explanation of the etiology of the process thought to be producing the differences in behavior associated with IQ. In order for a formulation to be of the difference type, the etiology of the postulated defect or difference must inhere in the low IQ itself [p. 548]." Because stimulus trace is a molar behavior theory, its constructs refer only to behavior and the related stimulus conditions. Other etiological explanations are neither sought nor necessary. We do not understand the meaning of the phrase "defect or difference must inhere in the low IQ." Defect or difference refers to a part of the organisms's contemporary behavior and therefore is a part of IQ (i.e., a part of the organism's intelligent behavior).Although Zigler and his colleagues initially did not distinguish difference and defect theories, he later came to do so. Zigler ( 1969) states: "The distinction rests completely on whether or not the theorist considers the particular shortcomings to vary across the entire range of intelligence [p. 549]." Those attributing shortcomings, varying in degree, to the whole intelligence range are difference theorists. Defects, on the other hand, apparently refer to qualitative differences between normal and retarded persons. Using this distinction, Zigler correctly classifies stimulus trace as a defect theory. We should note, however, that we expect persons with any downward deviation from average intellectual funtioning to exhibit trace deficits. This includes persons variously labeled as MBD, brain-injured, hyperactive, Strauss syndrome, autistic, dyslexic, or retarded.
Summary
Before turning to a review of the stimulus trace theory, and some of the pertinent research, we summarize the preceding comments:
1. Behavioral theories designed to provide a better understanding of retarded persons developed mainly in the late 1950s and early 1960s. During this period, notable changes occurred in the quality and quantity of research. Research interests shifted to topics relating to experimental, and away from traditional clinical psychology.
2. Some of the theories that have led to systematic research efforts were the attention theory of Zeaman and House, the cortical satiation theory of Spitz, the social learning theory of Cromwell, the stimulus trace theory of Ellis, the verbal mediation theory of Luria, and the developmental theory of Zigler.
3. Zigler and his associates have divided these theories into defect or difference theories and developmental theories. He and others have attempted to characterize differences in the approaches of the various theorists.

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