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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Demonstration of The Positive Manifold of Cognitive Test Inter-correlations, and how it Relates to General Intelligence, Modularity, and Lexical Knowledge


Widely recognized in differential psychology, but less so in cognitive science, the positive manifold is the phenomena of all cognitive tests inter-correlating positively. Frequently demonstrated in people, it can also be observed in non-human species. With 217 Ecuadorian adult participants, who performed 11 cognitive tests, we show that all 55 pairwise inter-correlations are positive, and of large magnitude. Additionally, factor analysis revealed a single underlying general, or g factor, often identified as general intelligence. This robustly replicates the positive manifold in a non- WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) context. We further demonstrate that tests of lexical knowledge, such as word pronunciation, have particularly high loadings on g. We explore explanations for the positive manifold, and the implications for understanding the mind as being composed of independent cognitive processing modules. We propose that the positive manifold reveals a neglected but important role of lexical-conceptual knowledge in high-level, top-down, domain-general cognitive processing.

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