Five Reasons to Doubt the Existence of a Geometric Module

Cognitive Science 34 (7):1315-1356 (2010)
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It is frequently claimed that the human mind is organized in a modular fashion, a hypothesis linked historically, though not inevitably, to the claim that many aspects of the human mind are innately specified. A specific instance of this line of thought is the proposal of an innately specified geometric module for human reorientation. From a massive modularity position, the reorientation module would be one of a large number that organized the mind. From the core knowledge position, the reorientation module is one of five innate and encapsulated modules that can later be supplemented by use of human language. In this paper, we marshall five lines of evidence that cast doubt on the geometric module hypothesis, unfolded in a series of reasons: (1) Language does not play a necessary role in the integration of feature and geometric cues, although it can be helpful. (2) A model of reorientation requires flexibility to explain variable phenomena. (3) Experience matters over short and long periods. (4) Features are used for true reorientation. (5) The nature of geometric information is not as yet clearly specified. In the final section, we review recent theoretical approaches to the known reorientation phenomena



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