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Drawing is a complex activity that relies on cognitive, perceptual, verbal and motor ability to transform a mental representation into motor commands to depict the representation as marks on a page. In addition to tapping many abilities, drawing can be studied in many ways by assessing the process of producing the drawing as well as the final image, using both qualitative and quantitative methods. Despite the potential wealth of data provided by drawing it is greatly under-researched, especially in neurodevelopmental disorders such as Williams syndrome (WS).

Drawing in WS is typically used as evidence of a local processing bias, where the correct parts of the image are drawn but without regard for the global configuration. In this lab we have shown that this theory is overly reductionist in explaining drawing behaviour in WS. By examining strategies used to draw and construct figures we have shown that when a strategy is used by individuals with WS it is not different from typically developing (TD) controls. However, drawing performance differs when a model contains many parts or when there are many spatial relations between the model, copy and page; in these instances individuals with WS use strategies less frequently.

Attention to what is being copied is also very poor in WS, which could account for errors in drawing if the model is poorly attended. Despite poor attention, individuals with WS draw global-level features as frequently as TD controls and in fact draw local elements less frequently than TDs. The deficits in drawing ability in WS cannot be explained by poor planning or motor ability. However, the deficits in drawing ability in WS are receptive to remediation and can be facilitated to be at the level expected for non-verbal ability. Providing facilitation is a trade-off between reducing planning demands (such as where to change direction and lengths of lines) and providing easily distinguishable and clearly grouped elements for component shapes/ parts of an image. These are exciting findings and suggest that remediation strategies can be devised for drawing and handwriting using the facilitation techniques we devised. 



Lab members


  • Andrew Glennerster



Hudson, K.D., Farran, E.K. (2017). Thinking inside the box: Spatial frames of reference for drawing in Williams syndrome and typical development. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 68, 66-77. doi:10.1016/j.ridd.2017.07.008

Hudson, K.D., Farran, E.K. (2013). Looking around houses: Attention to a model when drawing complex shapes in Williams syndrome and typical development.  Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34, 3029-3039.

Hudson, K.D., Farran, E.K. (2013). Facilitating complex shape drawing in Williams syndrome and typical development.  Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34, 2133-2142

Hudson, K. & Farran, E.K. (2011). Drawing the Line: Graphic Strategies for Simple and Complex Shapes in Williams Syndrome and Typical Development. British Journal of Developmental Psychology,29, 687-706.

Hudson, K. & Farran, E.K. (2012). Executive function and motor planning. In Farran, E.K. and Karmiloff-Smith, A. (Eds). Neurodevelopmental Disorders Across the Lifespan: A Neuroconstructivist Approach. (pp. 165-186). Oxford University Press.


Research groups and centres

Our research is supported by research groups and centres of excellence.

Cognition, Genes and Developmental Variability Lab 

Research themes

Find out more about our research at Surrey: