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Mark Mon-Williams, Amanda Waterman, Peter Culmer, Liam Hill; Visual Motor Memory: A developing construct. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):76. doi: 10.1167/15.12.76.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Background: Humans possess a remarkable ability to remember visual shapes and generate motor activity from these visual representations. We use the term visual–motor memory to describe this skill. This skill is critically important to humans during development (e.g. when learning to write). Moreover, this ability must have conveyed an evolutionary advantage to humans and is part of the archaeological evidence for the existence of cultural transmission across civilisations over millennia (from Palaeolithic cave drawings through Jiahu symbols to cursive handwriting). Surprisingly little empirical investigation of this unique human ability exists—almost certainly because of the technological difficulties involved in measuring this skill. Methods: We deployed a novel technique for measuring this psychological construct in 87 children (6–11 years old, 44 females). Children drew novel shapes presented briefly on a tablet laptop screen, drawing their responses from memory on the screen using a digitizer stylus. Sophisticated algorithms (using point-registration techniques) objectively quantified the accuracy of the children’s reproductions. Results: VMM improved with age and performance decreased with shape complexity, indicating that the measure captured meaningful developmental changes. The relationship between VMM and the children’s scores on nationally standardized writing assessments were explored and the results showed a clear relationship between these measures- even after controlling for age. Moreover, a relationship between VMM and the nationally standardized reading test was mediated via writing ability, Conclusion: We have developed an objective measure of visual–motor memory that can be readily deployed in classroom settings. The VMM measures appear to be powerful predictors of reading and writing ability (even when controlling for age). Thus, VMM appears to be important within language development. We have now successfully deployed the VMM test across children within an English city (Bradford), allowing exploration of the effects of ethnicity and socio-economic status on visual memory.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015
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