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A visual attention study for developing learning cues for individuals with severe mental retardation

Roger L Aveyard, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Individuals with mental retardation, those with Intelligent Quotients (IQ's) below 70 on standardized tests of intelligence, have great difficulty with knowledge and skill acquisition because of deficits in attention span, short-term memory, long-term memory, perception, and other cognitive processes. These deficits are the most pronounced in the two lowest categories of mental retardation, individuals who have Severe and Profound mental retardation, with IQ scores of 20–35, and below 20, respectively. ^ These individuals have great difficulty attending to even a simple task. The present research study introduces a visual attention aid during a visual attention task. This aid is expected to improve visual attention, and therefore visual performance on the task. Study participants see a visual array on a computer screen and are instructed to focus on the center of the display, which holds a symbol to be remembered. On the next visual display the participants look for and find that symbol among other symbols. There were four groups of participants: Severe Cued, who were given the visual aid, which was the tracing of the symbol with a pointer by the investigator; Severe Uncued; Profound Cued; and Profound Uncued. It was anticipated that visual cueing would improve the visual attention of the participants who received the cueing, and also that the Severe groups would show better performance than the Profound groups. ^ Forty-one participants completed three sessions spread over one week. Each session had 20 trials. Analysis of Variance was used to compare the groups by level of retardation and cueing. Other variables were considered. ^ The two main hypotheses were not supported. The Severe groups did not perform better than the Profound groups, although there was a trend in that direction. In addition, the Cued groups, who received visual assistance to help them attend to and remember the target symbols, did not perform better than the Uncued groups. In fact, the Uncued groups performed significantly better on the last session, the one-week session. These results are analyzed. ^

Subject Area

Education, Educational Psychology|Psychology, Cognitive

Recommended Citation

Aveyard, Roger L, "A visual attention study for developing learning cues for individuals with severe mental retardation" (2001). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3038972.