Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Divided attention, selective attention and drawing: Processing preferences in Williams syndrome are dependent on the task administered

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


The visuo-spatial abilities of individuals with Williams syndrome (WS) have consistently been shown to be generally weak. These poor visuo-spatial abilities have been ascribed to a local processing bias by some [30] and conversely, to a global processing bias by others [24]. In this study, two identification versions and one drawing version of the Navon hierarchical processing task, a non-verbal task, were employed to investigate this apparent contradiction. The two identification tasks were administered to 21 individuals with WS, 21 typically developing individuals, matched by non-verbal ability, and 21 adult participants matched to the WS group by mean chronological age. The third, drawing task was administered to the WS group and the TD controls only. It was hypothesised that the WS group would show differential processing biases depending on the type of processing the task was measuring. Results from two identification versions of the Navon task measuring divided and selective attention showed that the WS group experienced equal interference from global to local as from local to global levels, and did not show an advantage of one level over another. This pattern of performance was broadly comparable to that of the control groups. The third task, a drawing version of the Navon task, revealed that individuals with WS were significantly better at drawing the local form in comparison to the global figure, whereas the typically developing control group did not show a bias towards either level. In summary, this study demonstrates that individuals with WS do not have a local or a global processing bias when asked to identify stimuli, but do show a local bias in their drawing abilities. This contrast may explain the apparently contrasting findings from previous studies

Year: 2003
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. (1997). A specific deficit of dorsal stream function in Williams syndrome. Neuroreport: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology
  3. (1983). An Islet of Ability in Autistic Children: A Research note. doi
  4. (1995). Analysis of the cognitive development in Italian children with Williams syndrome. Genetic Councelling
  5. (1972). Assessment of aphasia and related disorders. Philadelphia: Lea and Febiger,
  6. (1999). Autism: cognitive deficit or cognitive style?
  7. (1982). British Picture Vocabulary Scale.
  8. (1999). Children with autism show local precedence in a divided attention task and global precedence in a selective attention task.
  9. (1998). Cognitive Functioning in Adults with Williams Syndrome.
  10. (1999). Cognitive processing of drawing abilities. Brain and Cognition
  11. Coloured progressive matrices.
  12. (1997). Crucial Differences Between Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience and Adult Neuropsychology. Developmental Neuropsychology,
  13. (1995). Deletions of the elastin gene at 7q11.23 occur in ~ 90% of patients with Williams syndrome.
  14. (1996). Developmental change in children's analysis of spatial patterns. doi
  15. (1996). Developmental sex differences in global-local perceptual bias. Neuropsychology
  16. (1981). Do attention and decision follow perception? Comment on Miller. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
  17. (1977). Forest before trees: The precedence of global features in visual perception. Cognitive Psychology,
  18. (1999). Global Spatial Organization by Individuals with Williams Syndrome. Psychological Science
  19. (1986). Intelligence and Primary Aptitudes: Test Design and Tests Available.
  20. (1996). Interaction between language and cognition: evidence from Williams Syndrome. In: Beitchman
  21. (1997). Language Acquisition in Williams Syndrome: Lexical Constraints and Semantic Organisation.
  22. (1998). Manual for Raven's Progressive Matrices and Vocabulary scales: section 2, Coloured Progressive Matrices.
  23. (1988). Nonparametric Statistics for the Behavioural Sciences, International Edition,
  24. (1981). Perceptual organisation in information processing.
  25. (1997). Phonological Short-term Memory and its Relationship to Language in Williams Syndrome. Cognitive Neuropsychiatry
  26. (1986). Properties, parts and objects. In: Boff
  27. (1989). Seeing either the Forest or the Trees: Dissociation
  28. (1988). Spatial deficits in children with Williams Syndrome.
  29. (1996). Spatial frequency and interference between global and local levels of structure.
  30. (1999). Syndrome: Use of Chromosomal Microdeletions as a Tool to Dissect Cognitive and Physical Phenotypes. doi
  31. (1985). The psychological characteristics of infantile hypercalcaemia: A preliminary investigation.
  32. (1995). The Visual Brain in Action:
  33. (1995). Two types of image generation: Evidence for left and right hemisphere processes. Neuropsychologia
  34. (1986). Understanding face recognition.
  35. (1999). Visuo-spatial cognition in Williams syndrome: An uneven profile of abilities. Poster presentation at the British Psychological Society Developmental section conference,
  36. Visuo-spatial cognition in Williams syndrome: Reviewing and accounting for the strengths and weaknesses in performance. Developmental Neuropsychology,
  37. (1992). Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Third Edition UK.: doi
  38. (1992). Wet mind: The new cognitive neuroscience.
  39. (1993). Why do autistic individuals show superior performance on the block design task? doi

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