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The development of problem-solving abilities in typical and atypical development

Camp, Joanne Sara (2014) The development of problem-solving abilities in typical and atypical development. PhD thesis, Institute of Education, University of London.

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Throughout our lives we engage in problem solving, which is thought to depend on executive functions (EFs) e.g., inhibition, shifting and working memory. Previous work has identified the need to consider these abilities in an everyday context. EF skills are known to be impaired in Williams syndrome (WS) and Down syndrome (DS). This thesis aims to investigate experimental and real-life problem solving in WS and DS, and how these groups use EF skills to solve problems, through experimental and questionnaire-based cross-syndrome comparisons. Participants with WS and DS aged 12-24 years (Ns=20) and typically developing (TD) controls (N=56; nonverbal matched subset = 20) completed the Tower of London (TOL) problem-solving task and a battery of EF tests. In a separate study, parents (WS, DS, TD; total N=112) completed the BRIEF (Behavioral Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning) and a novel Problem-Solving Questionnaire. The WS group, but not the DS group, scored more poorly on the TOL than the nonverbal-matched controls. In WS, developmental trajectory analysis indicated over-reliance on planning for TOL performance for low planning scores. For the DS group only speed of picture matching was associated with TOL performance, while more rule violations were exhibited than for the WS group. Questionnaire scores were poor for the WS group in relation to DS and TD groups. Asking for help for the DS group, and becoming emotional for the WS group, was related to reaching the solution. In general, associations between experimental and everyday measures were scarce. It was concluded that: while EFs (planning, visuospatial working memory) were constraining factors for WS problem solving, alternative strategies were used by the DS group to reach the solution; real-life problem solving should be considered in its own right; and poor WS problem solving may be related to emotional difficulties.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Controlled Keywords: Neurodevelopmental disorders, problem solving, executive functioning
Subjects: Departments > Psychology and Human Development
Depositing User: Mr Julian Zerfahs
Date Deposited: 31 Mar 2015 10:23
Last Modified: 15 Apr 2015 15:11
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