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Brain Cogn. 2000 Jun-Aug;43(1-3):117-20.

Passive and active processes in visuo-spatial memory: double dissociation in developmental learning disabilities.

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  • 1Dipartimento di Psicologia Generale, Universit√† di Padova, Italy.


The distinction between passive and active visuo-spatial memory has been useful to interpret various pattern of deficits reported in individual differences studies. However, this interpretation raises the issue of task difficulty, since active tasks could be failed simply because more complex and the corresponding deficit could reflect a reduced capacity of the system. We describe two children with Nonverbal Learning Disability whose performance provides evidence of a dissociation between passive and active memory processes. One of the children showed a selective impairment in passive tasks and performed flawlessly in active tasks, whereas the second child displayed the opposite pattern. These data suggest that a qualitative difference between passive and active processes does exist and that differences in performance do not reflect a lower/higher level of task difficulty. Further, these data underlie the importance of formulating theoretical models of visuo-spatial memory including both material-related (i.e., visual vs spatial) and process-related (i.e., passive vs active) distinctions.

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