Learning from facial expressions in individuals with Williams syndrome

K. J. Goldman*, J. A. Burack, C. Shulman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Despite high levels of social engagement, the social competence of individuals with Williams syndrome (WS) is frequently compromised. This descriptive study explores the ability of young people with WS to learn from facial expressions when provided as a source of feedback for their actions. Method: Using a novel task, the ability to interpret facial expressions and adapt behaviour after receiving feedback in the form of happy or angry faces was assessed in 12 participants with WS aged between 10 and 28 years and with a mean nonverbal mental age of 6.5 years, and in typically developing (TD) children aged between 4 and 7 years. Results: Individuals with WS were able to use facial expressions as feedback in a manner commensurate with their mental age, only when other cognitive demands were low. Their performance profile differed from that of the TD children matched for mental age and from the performance profile of 4 year olds. Conclusions: Possible explanations for the unique performance profile observed in the participants with WS are discussed. The results highlight the need to examine social competencies in the context of the cognitive demands characteristic of social environments.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)982-992
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Intellectual Disability Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 MENCAP and International Association of the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • Williams syndrome
  • facial expressions
  • feedback learning
  • social competence


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