Foundations Of Cognitive Science

Massive Modularity Hypothesis

Evolutionary psychologists have responded to Fodor’s (1983) claim that there cannot be a cognitive science of high-level cogntion  by proposing an alternative to Fodor’s notion of modularity.  This alternative is the massive modularity hypothesis (Carruthers, 2006; Pinker, 1994, 1997).  According to the massive modularity hypothesis, most cognitive processes – including high-level reasoning – are modular.  For instance, Pinker (1994, p. 420) has proposed that modular processing underlies intuitive mechanics, intuitive biology, intuitive psychology, and the self-concept.  The mind is a “a collection of instincts adapted for solving evolutionarily significant problems—the mind as a Swiss Army knife” (Pinker, 1994, p. 420).   The massive modularity hypothesis proposes to eliminate isotropic processing from cognition, spawning modern discussions about how modules should be defined, and about what kinds of processing are modular or not (Barrett & Kurzban, 2006; Bennett, 1990; Fodor, 2000; Samuels, 1998).


  1. Barrett, H. C., & Kurzban, R. (2006). Modularity in cognition: Framing the debate. Psychological Review, 113(3), 628-647.
  2. Bennett, L. J. (1990). Modularity of Mind Revisited. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 41(3), 429-436.
  3. Carruthers, P. (2006). The Architecture Of The Mind: Massive Modularity And The Flexibility Of Thought. Oxford
  4. Fodor, J. A. (1983). The Modularity Of Mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  5. Fodor, J. A. (2000). The Mind Doesn't Work That Way:The Scope And Limits Of Computational Psychology. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
  6. Pinker, S. (1994). The Language Instinct. New York: Morrow.
  7. Pinker, S. (1997). How The Mind Works. New York, NY: W.W. Norton.

(Added October 2010)