The same 17 children with blindness participated in the second experiment, but a different group of 25 sighted children were recruited from a private school. Participants were first asked to recall words that are phonemically similar, in other words asking them to rhyme words. Participants were also asked to listen to sentences and recall the last word of each sentence. For both experiments, results indicate that the blind children performed better on short-term memory tasks but not on working memory tasks. One way to explain the results is that loss of vision forces an individual to rely on more intact processes, in this case, auditory monitoring and speech discrimination. These results go hand-in-hand with other findings that suggest that blind children perform better than sighted children in auditory discrimination tasks (Röder et al., 1996), and complex language processing tasks. Studies have also shown that both short-term and long-term memory is enhanced in people with blindness (Röder & Rösler, 2003).
In conclusion, the literature tends to support the idea that blind individuals have a phonological acuity and perform better on short-term memory tasks compared to sighted children. From a neuropsychological point of view, this study confirms the idea that short-term memory and working memory are distinguishable constructs, as the terms are often used interchangeably. From a more humane point of view, this study provides input on cognitive abilities in people with blindness. More specifically, it shows that while these people are visually impaired, they seem to be cognitively skilled and excel on phonological tasks that focus on sound and language.
A disability, or a gift ?
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