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From Puzzle to Progress: How Engaging With Neurodiversity Can Improve Cognitive Science
In cognitive science, there is a tacit norm that phenomena such as cultural variation or synaesthesia are worthy examples of cognitive diversity that contribute to a better understanding of cognition, but that other forms of cognitive diversity (e.g., autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder/ADHD, and dyslexia) are primarily interesting only as examples of deficit, dysfunction, or impairment. This status quo is dehumanizing and holds back much-needed research. In contrast, the neurodiversity paradigm argues that such experiences are not necessarily deficits but rather are natural reflections of biodiversity. Here, we propose that neurodiversity is an important topic for future research in cognitive science. We discuss why cognitive science has thus far failed to engage with neurodiversity, why this gap presents both ethical and scientific challenges for the field, and, crucially, why cognitive science will produce better theories of human cognition if the field engages with neurodiversity in the same way that it values other forms of cognitive diversity. Doing so will not only empower marginalized researchers but will also present an opportunity for cognitive science to benefit from the unique contributions of neurodivergent researchers and communities.