Skip to main content

Brain and behavior: Which way does the shaping go?

  • A. Charles Catania (a1)

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).

Hide All
Catania A. C. (2000) From behavior to brain and back again: Review of Orbach on Lashley-Hebb. Psycoloquy, March 18, 2000. (Online publication: psyc.00.11.027.lashley-hebb.14.catania, 890 lines.) Available at:
Catania A. C. (2001) Three varieties of selection and their implications for the origins of language. In: Language evolution: Biological, linguistic and philosophical perspectives, ed. Györi G., pp. 5571. Peter Lang.
Catania A. C. (2003a) Why behavior should matter to linguists. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 26:670–72.
Catania A. C. (2003b) Verbal governance, verbal shaping, and attention to verbal stimuli. In: Behavior theory and philosophy, ed. Lattal K. A. & Chase P. N., pp. 301–21. Kluwer/Academic Press.
Catania A. C. (2006) Antecedents and consequences of words. Analysis of Verbal Behavior 22:89100.
Catania K. C. & Kaas J. H. (1997) The mole nose instructs the brain. Somatosensory and Motor Research 14:5658.
Colapinto J. (2007) The interpreter. The New Yorker, April 16, 2007, pp. 118–37.
Irvine K. D. & Rauskolb C. (2001) Boundaries in development: Formation and function. Annual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology 17:189214.
Jackendoff R. (2003) Précis of Foundations of language: Brain, meaning, grammar, evolution. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 26:651707.
Kiecker C. & Lumsden A. (2005) Compartments and their boundaries in vertebrate brain development. Nature Reviews: Neuroscience 6:553–64.
Pinker S. & Bloom P. (1990) Natural language and natural selection. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13:707–27; discussion 727–84. Available at:
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • ISSN: 0140-525X
  • EISSN: 1469-1825
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 15
Total number of PDF views: 18 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 108 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 19th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.