Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Open Peer Commentary

Brain and behavior: Which way does the shaping go?

A. Charles Cataniaa1

a1 Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), Baltimore, MD 21250. [email protected]


Evolutionary contingencies select organisms based on what they can do; brains and other evolved structures serve their behavior. Arguments that brains drive language structure get the direction wrong; with functional issues unacknowledged, interactions between central structures and periphery are overlooked. Evidence supports a peripherally driven central organization. If language modules develop like other brain compartments, then environmental consistencies can engender both structural and functional language units (e.g., the different phonemic, semantic, and grammatical structures of different languages).