A Brunswikian evolutionary developmental theory of preparedness and plasticity

Aurelio José Figueredo, Kenneth R. Hammond, Erin C. McKiernan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


The domain-independent and domain-dependent approach to the evolution of cognition have been taken by separate groups of researchers who have focused exclusively on either the formal properties or the distinct cognitive demands of tasks. We express the view that synthesizing the two approaches could lead to a more complete understanding, and propose such a comprehensive model of cognitive evolution and development. First, we discuss how Egon Brunswik demonstrated the importance of the relationship between the organism and the environment, and how his research and that of others has led to the domain-independent and domain-dependent views. Second, we use Brunswikian concepts to propose a two-parameter evolutionary model of cognitive development that specifies how particular behaviors come to be characterized by independent levels of biological preparedness and developmental plasticity. Our theory incorporates both a domain-independent organizing principle and the importance of domain-dependent processes. Third, we briefly discuss one unique prediction arising from the Brunswikian Evolutionary Developmental theory and describe preliminary supporting evidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-227
Number of pages17
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2006


  • Associative learning
  • Biological preparedness
  • Cognition
  • Developmental plasticity
  • Domain-dependent
  • Domain-independent
  • Extinction
  • Habituation
  • Nonassociative learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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