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Understanding Developmental Disorders : A Causal Modelling Approach - John Morton

Understanding Developmental Disorders

A Causal Modelling Approach


Published: 21st December 2004
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This long-awaited and ground-breaking book from cognitive scientist John Morton helps to clarify the nature of developmental disorders. It challenges the basis of standard behaviourally based diagnostic practice, showing how the role of biology and cognition is crucial to understanding the underlying nature of these disorders. It also sets out a clear method for assessing and comparing the many alternative theories. An understanding of developmental disorders depends on being able to address the issue of cause and on making the link between disorder and normal process. These were the driving forces behind the emergence of the causal modelling methodology at the Cognitive Development Unit in London by the author and his colleague Uta Frith. John Morton elucidates this method and uses it ruthlessly to compare different theories of particular developmental disorders and to pinpoint their weaknesses. The result is a book that will have a profound impact on research and thinking in the fields of psychology, neuroscience and medicine.

"What causes disorders of development? How can they be meaningfullydefined? These questions have resulted in deeply entangledcontroversies. John Morton has provided a razor-sharp tool thatcuts the Gordian knot. This tool uses a simple pictorial notationthat leaves aside ambiguous and divisive words. It resolvesentrenched but illusory oppositions between cognition and brain andbetween nature and nurture. It makes the confusing facts aboutautism, dyslexia, and other disorders fall into a new coherentpattern and invigorates the comparison of different points of view.This book is indispensable for anyone trying to understandcognitive development and its disorders." Uta Frith, Professorof Cognitive Development, University College LondonInstitute of Cognitive Neuroscience

"In his compelling book, Understanding DevelopmentalDisorders, John Morton applies a causal modeling approach tounderstanding the influences that biological, cognitive, behavioral, and environmental factors exert on the emergence ofdevelopmental disorders. Morton eloquently conveys a way ofconceptualizing various theories of developmental disorders. Thisvolume will provide an invaluable tool for students, practitioners, and those in academia. I highly recommend it as a must for allprofessionals striving to understand the origins and course ofdevelopmental disorders." Dante Cicchetti, Ph.D., Director, Mt.Hope Family Center

"Causal modelling of cognition is a new and original tool notonly for thinking with precision about cognitive development andthe ways in which it can go amiss; I can see this book having arevolutionary impact on developmental psychology. Thecausal-modelling framework is also valuable for exposing the kindof sloppy thinking about the causes of developmental difficultiesthat one sees so often in statements by journalists and politicians(the book contains many such examples). Simply and cogentlywritten, this book is of great importance both for scientists indevelopmental psychology and for public-health professionalsconcerned with disorders such as autism, ADHD and dyslexia."Prof Max Coltheart, Scientific Director, Macquarie Centre forCognitive Science, Australia

"John Morton's deep and wonderful book should be requiredreading for any serious student of cognitive development, as wellas for any researcher concerned with developmental disabilities. Ingiving us a tool for thinking about the causal history ofdevelopmental disabilities, he offers profound insights into thenature of causality, the relations among different levels ofanalysis, and the causes of four developmental syndromes, includingautism and dyslexia." Susan Carey, Professor, HarvardUniversity

"Morton's lucid and highly readable book offers an excellenttool to clarify the field of developmental disorders as it standsand to point the way to the future." Trends in CognitiveSciences, August 2005

"Morton writes from first principles but then, as the bookprogresses, assumes some psychological sophistication. He has acomfortable and conversational...style that has become unusual inscientific writing. It invites reflection, questioning anddiscussion and I found it well suited to putting across concepts."Tom Berney, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, May2006

"Morton's causal modeling approach seems aninnovative and insightful advance in examining and understandingthe causes and diagnosis of pathologic conditions."Psychological Record

Preface and Acknowledgements viii

Chapter 1 Introducing Cause 1

Cause and public issues 1

Cause and individual events: ‘Why did Romeo die?’ 6

Some more reasons for not looking at individual cases 9

The need for a framework for thinking in 10

Creating a tool: the problem of notation 14

An example of the limits of language 15

An invitation to consider diagrams as a tool 18

A tool for representing causal relationships 18

Chapter 2 Introducing Cognition 20

One thing I do want you to believe 20

Reductionism 22

Can we rely on behaviour? 24

The IQ example: a note of caution 27

Why cause needs cognition 29

Chapter 3 Representing Causal Relationships: Technical and Formal Considerations 34

Categorizing facts 34

The causal notation 38

Starting a causal model for autism 41

Complications 46

Some easy stuff on cause and correlation 51

Other notations 54

Chapter 4 Autism: How Causal Modelling Started 67

The biological origin of autism 74

The role of cognition in defining autism 81

What is mentalizing? 86

The non-social features of autism: how to diagram ideas on weak central coherence in autism 89

Summary 92

Chapter 5 The What and the How 98

Ground rules of causal modelling 99

Chapter 6 Competing Causal Accounts of Autism 106

Representing the effects of environmental factors 107

Cognitive theories of autism 112

Chapter 7 The Problem of Diagnosis 133

Diagnosis and cause: relying on behaviour 134

The Spanish Inquisition example: the dangers of labelling 135

Problems of diagnostic practice 140

Variability 148

Changes over time: improvement and deterioration 152

The variability of the phenotype 153

On co-morbidity and the question of residual normality 158

To summarize 160

Chapter 8 A Causal Analysis of Dyslexia 161

The dyslexia debate: Is there such a thing as dyslexia? 161

The discrepancy definition of specific reading disability 164

Towards a cognitive definition 166

An X-type causal model of dyslexia 168

Competing theories of dyslexia 176

Non-biological causes 195

Other biological causes of reading failure 199

How do we sort among the options? 200

The relationship between acquired and developmental dyslexia 204

A theoretical update 204

Chapter 9 The Hyperkinetic Confusions 208

Drugs as diagnostic refinement 212

Types of theory 216

The problem of co-morbidity: conduct disorder and ADHD 218

The cognitive level 219

Sonuga-Barke’s dual pathway model 223

Summary 226

Chapter 10 Theories of Conduct Disorder 227

The violence inhibition mechanism (VIM) model 228

The social information processing model for aggressive children 231

The coercive parenting model of Patterson 235

The theory of life-course persistent antisocial behaviour 236

What does the application of the framework tell us about the theories? 244

Chapter 11 Tying in Biology 247

Relations between the cognitive and biological levels 247

Equivalence: brain to cognition 251

Causal influences from cognition to brain 253

Genes and cause: the end of behaviour genetics 255

Endophenotypes 264

Mouse (and other) models for human disorders 266

Chapter 12 To Conclude 270

References 273

Name Index 292

Subject Index 296

ISBN: 9780631187585
ISBN-10: 0631187588
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 300
Published: 21st December 2004
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 22.66 x 16.61  x 2.52
Weight (kg): 0.48
Edition Number: 1