What Is Domain Specificity (and Why Does It Matter)?


The distinction between domain specificity and domain generality is widespread in cognitive science. Yet, the difference between the two types of cognitive capacities has rarely been made in a principled manner. Moreover, some of the examples that are put forward to illustrate it in the literature are either spurious or misleading. In this paper, I use a number of examples to determine what domain specificity is, and just as importantly, what it is not. A domain-specific cognitive system is one that is in principle generalizable, but which the cognizer does not extend to cases that the system did not originally evolve to deal with.

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