Field dependence and working memory capacity in children's ability to copy figures within a misleading context
Visual motor abilities are a concern for many elementary age children. Design copying tasks are often used to assess development in this area. The purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of field dependence on a design copy task and to test the theory that this influence has a quantitative explanation. New tasks were created which required copying designs within the misleading context of either a tilted frame or a different size frame. Field dependence would be demonstrated if the participant was influenced by the misleading frame and constructed copies that are oriented to the frame rather than to a more appropriate external frame of reference. Working memory capacity would be shown to be related to ability on these tasks if there was a greater influence of the frames on items that involved more complex figures to be copied. The Block Design Test and Corsi Block Tapping Test were used as standard measures of field dependence and working memory capacity.
Participants included 105 children between the ages of 6 and 11 years, including 19 identified as learning disabled, and 39 adults. Results showed that constructions made by participants were significantly affected by the misleading frames and accuracy of constructions correlated significantly with Block Design, thus providing support for the new tasks as measures of field dependence. Adults were significantly more accurate than children but they too were influenced by the misleading frames. Support for working memory capacity as an underlying factor was less consistent; a significant increase in the influence of the tilted frames was found with an increase in complexity of the figures, but no correlation with the memory span test was found. The validity of a recall test as a working memory assessment is discussed. An interactive model of working memory and inhibition as proposed by Roberts and Pennington (1996) might better account for results.
A case study illustrates the inconsistency of performance by children and how a dynamic systems model can be used to consider the role of working memory, inhibition and ongoing goal-directed action on the study tasks.
0620: Developmental psychology