Constraints on Multiple Object Tracking in Williams Syndrome: How Atypical Development Can Inform Theories of Visual Processing

Katrina Ferrara, James E. Hoffman, Kirsten O’Hearn, Barbara Landau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The ability to track moving objects is a crucial skill for performance in everyday spatial tasks. The tracking mechanism depends on representation of moving items as coherent entities, which follow the spatiotemporal constraints of objects in the world. In the present experiment, participants tracked 1 to 4 targets in a display of 8 identical objects. Objects moved randomly and independently (moving condition), passed behind an invisible bar (occluded condition), or momentarily disappeared by shrinking (implosion condition). Scholl and Pylyshyn (1999) found that adults can track entities under the moving and occluded conditions, but not under implosion. This finding suggests that the tracking mechanism is constrained by the spatiotemporal properties of physical objects as they move in the world. In the present study, we adapt these conditions to investigate whether this constraint holds for people with severe spatial impairments associated with Williams syndrome (WS). In Experiment 1, we compare the performance of individuals with WS and typically developing (TD) adults. TD adults replicated Scholl and Pylyshyn’s findings; performance was no different between the moving and occluded conditions but was worse under implosion. People with WS had reduced tracking capacity but demonstrated the same pattern across conditions. In Experiment 2, we tested TD 4-, 5-, and 7-year-olds. People with WS performed at a level that fell between TD 4- and 5-year-olds. These results suggest that the multiple object tracking system in WS operates under the same object-based constraints that hold in typical development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)620-641
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Cognition and Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 7 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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