The acquisition of survey knowledge by individuals with down syndrome

Zachary M. Himmelberger, Edward C. Merrill, Frances A. Conners, Beverly Roskos, Yingying Yang, Trent Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

People with Down syndrome often exhibit deficiencies in wayfinding activities, particularly route learning (e.g., Courbois et al., 2013; Davis et al., 2014; Farran et al., 2015). Evidence concerning more sophisticated survey learning has been sparse. In the research reported here, two experiments are reported that evaluated survey learning of youth with DS and typically developing children (TD) matched on mental age. In Experiment 1, participants learned two overlapping routes consisting of three turns each through a virtual environment depicting 9 square city blocks. Following acquisition, they were tested on multiple measures of survey knowledge: finding a shortcut, identifying the direction of landmarks not currently visible from their location in the environment, and recognizing a bird’s-eye representation of the overall environment. Under these conditions, which should provide relatively optimal opportunities for survey learning, the participants with DS performed comparably to TD participants matched on non-verbal ability on all of our measures of survey learning. Hence, we concluded that people with DS can acquire some survey knowledge when tasked with learning a small environment and given the opportunity to do so. In Experiment 2, the experimenter navigated participants through a large, relatively complex, virtual environment along a circuitous path, beginning and ending at a target landmark. Then, the participants were placed at a pre-specified location in the environment that they had viewed previously and instructed to navigate to the same target (a door) using the shortest possible path from their current location. They completed the task three times: once after being shown the environment one time, once after three exposures, and once after five exposures. Results indicated that the participants with DS exhibited significantly less skill at identifying the shortcut than did the TD participants, with differences emerging as the number of exposures increased. Participants with DS were also less able to recall landmarks at the end of the experiment. Overall, however, the performance of both groups was relatively poor in both experiments – with the performance of participants with DS being worse as conditions became less optimal. These results were discussed in terms of underlying mechanisms that may account for variations in survey learning as environmental complexity increases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number256
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Volume14
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020

Keywords

  • Down syndrome
  • Landmark memory
  • MA comparison
  • Spatial abilities
  • Survey-knowledge

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