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A striking feature of individual differences in cognitive abilities is that they are universally positively correlated - a phenomenon known as the positive manifold. The traditional method of analysis yields a g-factor, a single summary metric with considerable predictive power. However, this summary metric ignores the developmental origin of the positive manifold. One developmental mechanism that may explain the positive manifold is mutualism: reciprocal, positive interactions between cognitive abilities during development. Here we present findings that suggest mutualism may help explain cognitive development. Across two traditional cohorts we find that the mutualism model outperformed competing developmental accounts: children with higher scores in a vocabulary showed greater gains in matrix reasoning and vice versa. We replicate these findings in a large adaptive learning sample (N≈12.000) on basic (counting ↔ addition) and more advanced (multiplication ↔ division) math skills. These dynamic coupling pathways are not predicted by other accounts, provide a novel window into cognitive development, and suggest a cognitive mechanism for processes such as gene- environment interactions: Coupling may allow small genetic differences between individuals to amplify during development, reconciling findings of high heritability on the one hand with environmental influences on the other. Additionally, I will discuss the opportunities and challenges in pursuing open science principles in the context of secondary analysis of large existing samples.


host: Dorothy Bishop