My current research focus is on the development of route-learning ability and its relationship to other areas of cognition. This project involves typically developing children, people with Williams syndrome, and people with Down syndrome. Route-learning development is currently poorly-understood, despite its key ecological/evolutionary significance, mainly because it’s difficult to run and control suitable experiments outdoors. We’re using virtual environments (VEs) in an attempt to overcome this. The project is yet young, but early results suggest that executive function is particularly important for good route-learning.
Generally, I am interested in whether individuals with developmental disorders use different strategies from typically-developing children to afford good task performance, particularly in tasks that are used for matching and regression purposes. Other areas of interest include the degree of independence of verbal short-term memory and language (both comprehension and production), and what exactly it is that verbal and visuospatial short-term memory have in common. I’m also interested in characterisation/ontology of cognitive entities: e.g., what is executive function, exactly?
So-called (monolithic) cognitive structures are traditionally identified experimentally or statistically, or both. Performance on two given tasks may not reliably correlate, because of low power, or maybe because of differences in task demands, or both. If we were then to conclude that these tasks measure independent cognitive functions, we would be poor scientists. So it’s extremely important to get the experimental design and the stats exactly right, or we end up in (ontological) trouble!
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Purser, H. R. M., Thomas, M. S. C., Snoxall, S., Mareschal, D., & Karmiloff-Smith, A. (2011) 'Definition and categorisation: Assessing the development of lexico-semantic knowledge in Williams syndrome', International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders 46, 361-73.
Purser, H. R. M. & Jarrold, C. (2010) 'Short- and long-term memory contributions to immediate serial recognition: Evidence from serial position effects', Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 63, 679-693.
Thomas, M. S. C., Van Duuren, M., Purser, H. R. M., Mareschal, D., Ansari, D., & Karmiloff-Smith, A. (2010) 'The development of metaphorical language comprehension in typical development and in Williams syndrome', Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 106, 99-114.
Purser, H. R. M., Thomas, M. S. C., Snoxall, S., & Mareschal, D. (2009) 'The development of similarity: Testing the prediction of a computational model of metaphor comprehension', Language and Cognitive Processes 24, 1406-1430.
Jarrold, C., Purser, H. R. M., & Brock, J. (2006) 'Short-term memory in Down syndrome' In T. P. Alloway & S. Gathercole (Eds.), Working memory and neurodevelopmental conditions. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.
Purser, H. R. M. & Jarrold, C. (2005) ' Impaired verbal short-term memory in Down syndrome reflects a capacity limitation rather than atypically rapid forgetting', Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 91, 1-23.
Last updated 23rd November 2011