Free recall in Williams syndrome: Is there a dissociation between short- and long-term memory?

Jon Brock*, Gordon D A Brown, Jill Boucher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Two experiments used the free recall paradigm to investigate verbal memory abilities in Williams syndrome (WS) - a rare genetic disorder. In an earlier free recall study, Vicari et al. (1996a) reported that, unlike TD controls, children with WS showed a recency effect but failed to show a primacy effect. These authors interpreted their findings as evidence for a dissociation between relatively strong verbal short-term memory and relatively impaired verbal long-term memory. In Experiment 1 of the current study, children with WS and TD controls showed comparable improvements in performance with repeated testing of the same material, indicating similar long-term learning of the test items. Neither group showed evidence of primacy effects. However, the extent of primacy effects in free recall is known to depend on the rehearsal strategy that participants adopt. In Experiment 2, therefore, participants were encouraged to engage in overt cumulative rehearsal. This manipulation resulted in significant and comparable primacy effects in both groups, although neither group demonstrated a significant change in overall performance. There was therefore no evidence from either experiment for a dissociation between short- and long-term verbal memory in WS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366-375
Number of pages10
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Language development
  • Verbal long-term memory
  • Verbal short-term memory
  • Williams syndrome


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