Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Block design performance in the Williams syndrome phenotype: A problem with mental imagery?

By Emily Farran, C Jarrold, S. E. Gathercole and S.E. Gathercole


Williams syndrome (WS) is a rare genetic disorder which, among other characteristics, has a distinctive cognitive profile. Non-verbal abilities are generally poor in relation to verbal abilities, but also show varying levels of ability in relation to each other. Performance on block construction tasks represents arguably the weakest non-verbal ability in WS. In this study we examined two requirements of block construction tasks in 21 individuals with WS and 21 typically developing (TD) control individuals. The Squares task, a novel two-dimensional block construction task, manipulated patterns by segmentation and perceptual cohesiveness to investigate the first factor, processing preference (local or global), and by obliqueness to examine the second factor, the ability to use mental imagery. These two factors were investigated directly by the Children?s Embedded Figures Test (CEFT; Witkin, Oltman, Raskin & Karp, 1971) and a mental rotation task respectively. Results showed that individuals with WS did not differ from the TD group in their processing style. However, the ability to use mental imagery was significantly poorer in the WS group than the TD group. This suggests that weak performance on the block construction tasks in WS may relate to an inability to use mental imagery

Year: 2001
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (2000). A spatial language problem in Williams syndrome: Evidence from grammatical errors. Poster presentation at the British Psychological Society Developmental section conference,
  2. (1983). An islet of ability in autistic children: A research note. doi
  3. (1997). Are people with autism and Asperger syndrome faster than normal on the Embedded Figures Test?
  4. (1999). Autism: cognitive deficit or cognitive style?
  5. (1982). British Picture Vocabulary Scale.
  6. (1971). Children's embedded figures test. Palo Alto,
  7. (1987). Cognitive abilities and behavioural characteristics of children with idiopathic infantile hypercalcaemia. doi
  8. (1998). Cognitive functioning in adults with Williams syndrome.
  9. (1993). Coloured progressive matrices.
  10. (1990). Differential Ability Scales.
  11. (1997). Drawing by children with Williams syndrome: A developmental perspective.
  12. (1977). Forest before trees: The precedence of global features in visual perception.
  13. (1999). Global spatial organization by individuals with Williams syndrome.
  14. (1996). Interaction between language and cognition: Evidence from Williams syndrome. In
  15. (1986). Internal frame of reference as a determinant of the oblique effect.
  16. (1992). Language, cognition and brain organisation in a neurodevelopmental disorder. In
  17. (1992). Manual for the Wechsler intelligence scale for children-third edition UK: doi
  18. (2000). manuscript submitted). Visuo-spatial cognition in Williams syndrome: Reviewing and accounting for the strengths and weaknesses in performance.
  19. (1988). Spatial deficits in children with Williams syndrome. In
  20. (1985). The psychological characteristics of infantile hypercalcaemia: A preliminary investigation.
  21. (1998). Verbal and Nonverbal Abilities in the Williams Syndrome Phenotype: Evidence for Diverging Development Trajectories.
  22. (1999). Visuo-spatial cognition in Williams syndrome: An uneven profile of abilities, Poster presentation at the British Psychological Society Developmental section conference,
  23. (1981). Wechsler adult intelligence scale-revised. doi
  24. (1993). Why do autistic individuals show superior performance on the block design task? doi
  25. (1994). Williams syndrome: An unusual neuropsychological profile. In
  26. (1999). Williams syndrome: Findings from an integrated program of research. In
  27. (1975). Word length and the structure of short-term memory.

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.