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Williams syndrome (WS) is a genetic disorder associated with severe visuocognitive impairment. Individuals with WS also report difficulties with everyday wayfinding. To study the development of body-, environment-, and object-based spatial frames of reference in WS, we tested 45 children and adults with WS on a search task in which the participant and a spatial array are moved with respect to each other. Although individuals with WS showed a marked delay, like young controls they demonstrated independent, additive use of body- and environment-based frames of reference. Crucially, object-based (intrinsic) representations based on local landmarks within the array were only marginally used even by adults with WS, whereas in typical development these emerge at 5 years. Deficits in landmark use are consistent with wayfinding difficulties in WS, and may also contribute to problems with basic localization, since in typical development landmark-based representations supplement those based on the body and on self-motion. Difficulties with inhibition or mental rotation may be further components in the impaired ability to use the correct reference frame in WS.

Original publication




Journal article


Dev Sci

Publication Date





583 - 595


Adolescent, Adult, Child, Child Development, Child, Preschool, Female, Form Perception, Humans, Male, Motion Perception, Perceptual Disorders, Space Perception, Vision, Ocular, Visual Perception, Williams Syndrome