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Abstract: Many theorists assume that the cognitive system is composed of a collection of encapsulated processing components or modules, each dedicated to performing a particular cognitive function. On this view, selective impairments of cognitive tasks following brain damage, as evidenced by double dissociations, are naturally interpreted in terms of the loss of particular processing components. By contrast, the current investigation examines in detail a double dissociation between concrete and abstract word reading after damage to a connectionist network that pronounces words via meaning and yet has no separable components (Plaut & Shallice, 1993). The functional specialization in the network that gives rise to the double dissociation is not transparently related to the network's structure, as modular theories assume. Furthermore, a consideration of the distribution of effects across quantitatively equivalent individual lesions in the network raises specific concerns about the interpretation of single-case studies. The findings underscore the necessity of relating neuropsychological data to cognitive theories in the context of specific computational assumptions about how the cognitive system operates normally and after damage.
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