Ecological Approaches to Cognition: Essays in Honor of Ulric Neisser

By Eugene Winograd; Robyn Fivush et al. | Go to book overview

central processes accounted for 80% of the variance in lexical ability, suggesting that central processes are likely to be more important than language-specific processes for vocabulary development. Individual differences in central processing accounted for 61% of the variance in grammatical ability, again suggesting that these processes are important for language ability. Note that central processes appear more central to lexical development than to grammatical development, consistent with suggestions that any language module is likely to be more important for grammar than for vocabulary (e.g., Smith & Tsimpli, 1995). Individual differences in central processing accounted for 46% of the variance in visuospatial constructive ability, again suggesting an important role for central processes. At the same time, these data are consistent with the possibility of a visuospatial module or perhaps a visuospatial construction module.

In summary, the findings from this study provide strong support for the importance of central processes to intelligence in Williams syndrome. At the same time, these findings also suggest the potential importance of modules devoted to specific abilities such as grammar or visuospatial construction.4 And the findings clearly point to the need for additional research, carefully targeted to measure particular central processes and specific noncentral processes, and to determine how central processes and modules interact. As Neisser et al. ( 1996) pointed out, debates about intelligence are typically characterized by "strong assertions as well as by strong feelings" (p. 77). Neisser et al. made this comment in response to the debate engendered by The Bell Curve ( Herrnstein & Murray, 1994). This finding, although to a less dramatic degree, characterizes the controversy regarding the nature of intelligence in Williams syndrome. The solution that Dick proposed--a careful analysis of all the available data, acknowledging both what is known and what is unknown about the topic under consideration--is the same solution he taught me when I was a student. Application of this strategy has greatly strengthened my research on the nature of intelligence in Williams syndrome.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This project was supported by Grant NS35102 from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and by Grant HD29957 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

____________________
4
These findings, although consistent with the potential importance of modules, do not provide unequivocal support for them. For example, the variance not accounted for by the central processes measured in this study may be accounted for in part by central processes that were not measured, such as speed of processing or spatial working memory. Some of the variance may also be accounted for by environmental factors such as parent-child interaction style or amount (or quality) of previous experience with spatial tasks.

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