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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

Abstract

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: oai:eprints.ioe.ac.uk.oai2:2063

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