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

Cristina D. Rabaglia, Gary F. Marcus, Sean P. Lane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)288-303
Number of pages16
JournalCognitive Neuropsychology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Cognitive architecture
  • Functional specialization
  • Individual differences
  • Positive manifold

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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