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Williams Syndrome  

Janette Atkinson

Williams Syndrome (WS) is a rare condition resulting from the deletion of approximately 25 genes on one copy of chromosome 7. As well as physical manifestations, most individuals with WS have a distinctive psychological profile including marked difficulties in visuospatial cognition, relatively fluent speech, and good face recognition, and a “hypersocial” personality including intense attention to faces and readiness to approach and engage with strangers. However, they show wide individual variations in cognitive and social abilities, from severe intellectual disability to normal range IQ scores. Many individuals with WS are prone to anxiety and obsessions and some meet the criteria for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A number of features of the WS profile are consistent with a deficit in function of the dorsal cortical stream, and anomalies in dorsal stream structures, as well as other specific features of brain structure and function which have been identified in the brains of individuals with WS. A number of specific genes within the deletion have been characterized, and links between gene expression, neural structure, and behavior have been suggested, but understanding of these links remains very partial and uncertain. Individuals with WS display a friendly and engaging personality. However, their social and cognitive difficulties mean that specialist support is needed in their education and integration within the community so that people with WS can achieve a degree of independent living while optimizing their well-being.

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William Stern (1871–1938), Eclipsed Star of Early 20th-Century Psychology  

James Lamiell

In the literature of mainstream scientific psychology, German scholar William Stern has been known primarily (if at all) as the inventor of the intelligence quotient (IQ). In fact, however, Stern’s contributions to psychology were much greater and more consequential than this. In this all-inclusive article, I have sought to provide readers with a fuller appreciation for the breadth and depth of Stern’s work, and, in particular, for that comprehensive system of thought that he elaborated under the name “critical personalism.” Drawing frequently on translated quotations from Stern’s published works, and on his personal correspondence with the Freiburg philosopher Jonas Cohn, I have endeavored to show how Stern was much more than “the IQ guy.” During the first 20 years of his academic career, spent at the University of Breslau in what is now the Polish city of Wroclaw, Stern founded that sub-discipline of psychology that would be concentrated on the study of individual differences in various aspects of human psychological functioning. He also made major contributions to that sub-discipline referred to at the time as “child” psychology, and laid the foundations for a comprehensive system of thought that he would name “critical personalism.” After relocating to Hamburg in 1916, Stern continued his scholarly efforts in these domains, taught courses both in psychology and in philosophy at the university that opened its doors there in 1919, and played major administrative roles there in the institutional homes of both disciplines until forced to flee Nazi Germany in 1934. The present chapter highlights ways in which, over the course of his scholarly career, Stern boldly opposed certain trends within mainstream thinking that were ascendant during his time.

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Working Memory and Cognitive Aging  

Paul Verhaeghen

Working memory as a temporary buffer for cognitive processing is an essential part of the cognitive system. Its capacity and select aspects of its functioning are age sensitive, more so for spatial than verbal material. Assumed causes for this decline include a decline in cognitive resources (such as speed of processing), and/or a breakdown in basic control processes (resistance to interference, task coordination, memory updating, binding, and/or top-down control as inferred from neuroimaging data). Meta-analyses suggest that a decline in cognitive resources explains much more of the age-related variance in true working memory tasks than a breakdown in basic control processes, although the latter is highly implicated in tasks of passive storage. The age-related decline in working memory capacity has downstream effects on more complex aspects of cognition (episodic memory, spatial cognition, and reasoning ability). Working memory remains plastic in old age, and training in working memory and cognitive control processes yields near transfer effects, but little evidence for strong far transfer.