Integration of plasticity research across disciplines

Willem E. Frankenhuis, Daniel Nettle

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Plasticity is studied across the social and biological sciences, but communication between disciplines is hindered by differences in the concepts used to do so. For instance, the distinction between expectant and dependent plasticity is widely used in psychology, but rarely used in evolutionary biology. As a consequence, researchers are less likely to benefit from each other's theories, methods, and findings. This paper discusses three challenges to the generality of the distinction: (1) organisms without neurons, (2) organisms that have multiple sensitive periods with flexible timing, and (3) variation in experience across individuals and populations. Although we hope that one day all disciplines will share a common, generalizable taxonomy of forms of plasticity, until then, we propose that psychologists continue using the distinction for traits and species where it applies, but also take low-cost measures to improve its connections with evolutionary biology. To this end, we provide five actionable recommendations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-162
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Behavioral Sciences
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

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