Brandon Tinklenberg
York University
Cognitive abilities cannot be measured directly. What we can measure is individual variation in task performance. In this paper, we first make the case for why we should be interested in mapping individual differences in task performance on to particular cognitive abilities: we suggest that it is crucial for examining the causes and consequences of variation both within and between species. As a case study, we examine whether multiple measures of inhibitory control for non-human animals do indeed produce correlated task performance; however, no clear pattern emerges that would support the notion of a common cognitive ability underpinning individual differences in performance. We advocate a psychometric approach involving a three-step programme to make theoretical and empirical progress: first, we need tasks that reveal signature limits in performance. Second, we need to assess the reliability of individual differences in task performance. Third, multi-trait multi-method test batteries will be instrumental in validating cognitive abilities. Together, these steps will help us to establish what varies between individuals that could impact their fitness and ultimately shape the course of the evolution of animal minds. Finally, we propose executive functions, including working memory, inhibitory control and attentional shifting, as a sensible starting point for this endeavour.
Keywords evolution of cognition  animal cognition  cognitive explanation
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Primate Cognition.Amanda Seed & Michael Tomasello - 2010 - Topics in Cognitive Science 2 (3):407-419.
Primate Cognition.Michael Tomasello & Josep Call - 1997 - Oxford University Press USA.
Construct Validity in Psychological Tests.Lee J. Cronbach & P. E. Meehl - 1956 - In Herbert Feigl & Michael Scriven (eds.), Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science. , Vol. pp. 1--174.

View all 12 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Toward a Unified View of Cognitive Control.Dario D. Salvucci & Niels A. Taatgen - 2011 - Topics in Cognitive Science 3 (2):227-230.
Embodied Cognition: Looking Inward.Przemysław Nowakowski - 2017 - Hybris. Internetowy Magazyn Filozoficzny 38:74-97.


Added to PP index

Total views
405 ( #20,916 of 2,448,702 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
21 ( #33,170 of 2,448,702 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes