What can individual differences tell us about the specialization of function?

Cogn Neuropsychol. 2011 May;28(3-4):288-303. doi: 10.1080/02643294.2011.609813.


Can the study of individual differences inform debates about modularity and the specialization of function? In this article, we consider the implications of a highly replicated, robust finding known as positive manifold: Individual differences in different cognitive domains tend to be positively intercorrelated. Prima facie, this fact, which has generally been interpreted as reflecting the influence of a domain-general cognitive factor, might be seen as posing a serious challenge to a strong view of modularity. Drawing on a mixture of meta-analysis and computer simulation, we show that positive manifold derives instead largely from between-task neural overlap, suggesting a potential way of reconciling individual differences with some form of modularity.

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Individuality*
  • Neuropsychological Tests