9.916 Modularity, Domain-specificity, and the Organization of Knowledge

Fall 2001

Image of what-where visual processing pathways, and an evoked response potential (ERP) setup.
What-where visual processing pathways, and an evoked response potential (ERP) setup. (Image by Prof. Nancy Kanwisher.)

Course Highlights

This graduate-level course explores the question of the degree to which human cognition is subserved by domain-specific processing mechanisms. Candidate domains of cognition that will be considered in detail include objects, number, places, and people. Papers for discussion will be based on methods such as behavioral measurements in normal children and human adults, special subject populations, and animals, as well as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and evoked response potential (ERPs).

Course Description

This course will consider the degree and nature of the modular organization of the mind and brain. We will focus in detail on the domains of objects, number, places, and people, drawing on evidence from behavioral studies in human infants, children, normal adults, neurological patients, and animals, as well as from studies using neural measures such as functional brain imaging and ERPs. With these domains as examples, we will address broader questions about the role of domain-general and domain-specific processing systems in mature human performance, the innateness vs. plasticity of encapsulated cognitive systems, the nature of the evidence for such systems, and the processes by which people link information flexibly across domains.

*Some translations represent previous versions of courses.

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Prof. Nancy Kanwisher
Prof. Elizabeth Spelke

Course Meeting Times

One session / week
3 hours / session