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Block Design Performance in the Williams Syndrome Phenotype: A Problem with Mental Imagery?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 October 2001

Emily K. Farran
Affiliation:
University of Bristol, U.K.
Christopher Jarrold
Affiliation:
University of Bristol, U.K.
Susan E. Gathercole
Affiliation:
University of Bristol, U.K.
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Abstract

Williams syndrome (WS) is a rare genetic disorder which, among other characteristics, has a distinctive cognitive profile. Nonverbal 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 nonverbal 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 tasks, 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 Embeded 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.

Type
Paper
Copyright
© 2001 Association for Child Psychology and Psychiatry

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