Social functioning in Down syndrome: A neuropsychological perspective

Melanie A. Porter*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter will commence with an overview of the literature on social functioning in Down syndrome (DS). The overview is structured according to Tager-Flusberg and Sullivan's (2000) model of social functioning, which differentiates social perceptual and social cognitive skills. Compared to the literature available for other developmental syndromes, there has been very little research exploring social abilities in DS, and studies have produced mixed findings. Following the overview, research limitations are discussed, then a research study is introduced which addresses some of the limitations and assesses social attribution in DS (N=17), Williams-Beuren syndrome (WBS, N=17), and in typically developing mental age matched controls (N=17, MAC) and chronological age matched controls (N=17, CAC). The research study compares individuals with DS, individuals with WBS, and MAC and CAC on the Social Attribution Task (SAT, Klin, 2000), which uses the Heider and Simmel (1944) silent cartoon animation in which geometric shapes enact a social plot. The SAT measures social abilities which are a fundamental basis of human social interaction (Klin, 2000). Findings indicated a comparable performance between DS, WBS, and MAC on all social cognitive indices from the SAT, but the DS group displayed reduced paralinguistic skills compared to MAC. All groups performed significantly below the level of CAC, except for their ability to attribute cognitive and affective mental states, which was comparable across the four groups. Findings are discussed in relation to Tager-Flusberg and Sullivan's model of social functioning and in relation to amygdala and frontal lobe brain impairments in DS.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Down Syndrome Research
EditorsDominicus Jelinek, Gijs Dvorak
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherNova Science Publishers
Number of pages34
ISBN (Print)9781607416906
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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