Contrasting domain-general and domain-specific accounts in cognitive neuropsychology: An outline of a new approach with developmental prosopagnosia as a case

Christian Gerlach*, Jason J.S. Barton, Andrea Albonico, Manuela Malaspina, Randi Starrfelt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

The backbone of cognitive neuropsychology is the observation of (double) dissociations in performance between patients, suggesting some degree of independence between cognitive processes (domain specificity). In comparison, observations of associations between disorders/deficits have been deemed less evidential in neuropsychological theorizing about cognitive architecture. The reason is that associations can reflect damage to independent cognitive processes that happen to be mediated by structures commonly affected by the same brain disorder rather than damage to a shared (domain-general) mechanism. Here we demonstrate that it is in principle possible to discriminate between these alternatives by means of a procedure involving large unbiased samples. We exemplify the procedure in the context of developmental prosopagnosia (DP), but the procedure is in principle applicable to all neuropsychological deficits/disorders. A simulation of the procedure on a dataset yields estimates of dissociations/associations that are well in line with existing DP-studies, and also suggests that seemingly selective disorders can reflect damage to both domain-general and domain-specific cognitive processes. However, the simulation also highlights some limitations that should be considered if the procedure is to be applied prospectively. The main advantage of the procedure is that allows for examination of both associations and dissociations in the same sample. Hence, it may help even the balance in the use of associations and dissociations as grounds for neuropsychological theorizing.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavior Research Methods
ISSN1554-351X
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1. Feb 2022

Keywords

  • Associations
  • Developmental prosopagnosia
  • Dissociations
  • Domain specificity
  • Face recognition
  • Object recognition

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