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Comments Concerning Explaining Abnormal Behavior, Part 2

By: , Posted on: August 31, 2015

Warren Tryon at Enchanted Isle Resort in Hollywood, FloridaIn this blog I continue to show that my book, Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychotherapy: Network Principles for a Unified Theory, is not as radical as some readers may think by showing that Pennington (2014) makes similar points in his book entitled Explaining Abnormal Behavior: A Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective.

Pennington’s Chapter 4 is entitled “How Does the Brain Compute?”. His answer is to emphasize the utility of connectionist neural network models just as I do in my book. His Table 4.1 presents important dates and accomplishments in the history of connectionist neural network modeling. He is careful to distinguish these models from behavioral models despite the fact that both have stimulus and response nodes. The crucial difference, the one that makes connectionist models cognitive, is the presence of intermediary, so-called “hidden”, processing nodes that receive multiple inputs from other processing nodes, sum them, and fire or not depending upon their cumulative input. The main point here is that Pennington fully endorses connectionist neural network models as an important research tool in cognitive neuroscience just as I do in my book and blogs. The advantage that my book has is that it presents considerably more details regarding how these neural network models work.

Pennington’s Chapter 5 is entitled “Classical and Contemporary Models of Abnormal Behavior”. These cognitive neuroscience explanatory models provide a historical background and conceptual framework for understanding how neuroscience research informs psychology. I report on this material here because it is important and because I did not present it in my book.

Subtraction Model

Focal impairment of ability X is taken as evidence of a neural network dedicated to implementing ability X. The term subtraction comes from the possibility of producing the focal impairment in question by lesioning, and thereby removing, the neural network presumed to mediate it. The Subtraction Model assumes that brain functions are localized and operate independently such that damaging one neural network “subtracts” only the functions that it mediates. The proper conclusion based on such results is that the lesioned neural network was necessary to the function that it mediates. Supportive examples include memory and facial recognition. This model fails to consider how neural networks interact to produce coherent effects. This simplistic view predominated during the early decades of neuroscience.

Disconnection Model

The Disconnection Model explains deficits on the basis of a missing link between two or more neural networks. Wernicke proposed such a model when he discovered upon autopsy that damage to the white matter track connecting Wernicke’s area to Broca’s area was responsible for certain clinical deficits. This is an alternative form of the Subtraction Model in that a crucial connection is taken out of service.

Conclusion & Next Blog

Both of the above mentioned cognitive neuroscience explanations of abnormal behavior presented by Pennington (2014) are entirely consistent, consilient, with explanations that I provide in my book. Hence, my book is not as radical as some readers might think. In my third and final blog concerning Pennington’s book I present six more cognitive neuroscience explanatory models that are fully consistent with my book.

Read more from Warren Tryon on SciTech Connect

Warren’s book, Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychotherapy: Network Principles for a Unified Theory is available for purchase on the Elsevier Store.

Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychotherapy cover

Use discount code “STC215” at checkout and save up to 30% on your very own copy.

About the Author

Warren ComputerWarren W. Tryon received his undergraduate degree from Ohio Northern University in 1966. He was enrolled in the APA approved Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology at Kent State University from 1966 – 1970. Upon graduation from Kent State, Dr. Tryon joined the Psychology Department faculty at Fordham University in 1970 as an Assistant Professor. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1977 and to Full Professor in 1983. Licensed as a psychologist in New York State in 1973, he joined the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology in 1976, became a Diplomate in Clinical Psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) in 1984, was promoted to Fellow of Division 12 (Clinical) of the American Psychological Association in 1994 and a fellow of the American Association of Applied and Preventive Psychology in 1996. Also in 1996 he became a Founder of the Assembly of Behavior Analysis and Therapy.

In 2003 he joined The Academy of Clinical Psychology. He was Director of Clinical Psychology Training from 1997 to 2003, and presently is in the third and final year of phased retirement. He will become Emeritus Professor of Psychology in May 2015 after 45 years of service to Fordham University. Dr. Tryon has published 179 titles, including 3 books, 22 chapters, and 140 articles in peer reviewed journals covering statistics, neuropsychology, and clinical psychology. He has reviewed manuscripts for 45 journals and book publishers and has authored 145 papers/posters that were presented at major scientific meetings. Dr. Tryon has mentored 87 doctoral dissertations to completion. This is a record number of completed dissertations at the Fordham University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and likely elsewhere.

His academic lineage is as follows. His mentor was V. Edwin Bixenstein who studied with O. Hobart Mowrer at the University of Illinois who studied with Knight Dunlap at Johns Hopkins University who studied with Hugo Munsterberg at Harvard University who studied with Wilhelm Wundt at the University of Leipzig.

Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychotherapy: Network Principles for a Unified Theory is Dr. Tryon’s capstone publication. It is the product of more than a quarter of a century of scholarship. Additional material added after this book was printed is available at This includes chapter supplements, a color version of Figure 5.6, and a thirteenth “Final Evaluation” chapter. He is on LinkedIn and Facebook. His email address is

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