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Individual differences and cognitive models of the mind: using the differentiation hypothesis to distinguish general and specific cognitive processes

Anderson, M. and Nelson, J.R. (2005) Individual differences and cognitive models of the mind: using the differentiation hypothesis to distinguish general and specific cognitive processes. In: Duncan, John, Phillips, Louise and McLeod, Peter, (eds.) Measuring the Mind: Speed, Control, and Age. Oxford University Press, United Kingdom, pp. 89-114.

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Abstract

This chapter uses a particular hypothesis from research on individual differences in cognitive ability—the differentiation hypothesis—to show that individual differences can he informative for cognitive models of the mind. The differentiation hypothesis comes in two forms. The developmental differentiation hypothesis argues that as children develop their abilities become more differentiated and that as adults age their abilities become de-differentiated. The individual differences differentiation hypothesis states that abilities are more differentiated at higher IQ. Differentiation is usually inferred from either a smaller g-factor or a lower average inter-test correlation. Simulations of alternative models that specify different functional relationships between processes underlying the g-factor and specific abilities are presented. They reveal that empirical outcomes are likely to be sensitive to nontrivial assumptions about the precise relationships between the hypothetical processes. In particular, a common but simple interpretation of the apparent de-differentiation of abilities with advancing age, and increasing differentiation with development in children, is that a single common factor underlies both g and developmental change (e.g. speed of processing). The simulations reveal that this simple interpretation is unwarranted. Evidence from the analysis of two datasets (elderly adults and young children) confirms this conclusion.

Publication Type: Book Chapter
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Copyright: Oxford University Press
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/27895
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