Generality with specificity: the dynamic field theory generalizes across tasks and time scales

Vanessa R. Simmering, John P. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


A central goal in cognitive and developmental science is to develop models of behavior that can generalize across both tasks and development while maintaining a commitment to detailed behavioral prediction. This paper presents tests of one such model, the Dynamic Field Theory (DFT). The DFT was originally proposed to capture delay-dependent biases in spatial recall and developmental changes in spatial recall performance. More recently, the theory was generalized to adults’ performance in a second spatial working memory task, position discrimination. Here we use the theory to predict a specific, complex developmental pattern in position discrimination. Data with 3- to 6-year-old children and adults confirm these predictions, demonstrating that the DFT achieves generality across tasks and time scales, as well as the specificity necessary to generate novel, falsifiable predictions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-555
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopmental Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2008

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