How specific are perceptual skills? A cross-cultural study of pattern reproduction


  • I am indebted to Dr Richard Brislin, Dr Jan Deregowski and Dr Patricia Greenfield for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper.


Pattern reproduction tasks were presented in four different media to samples of urban Zambian and urban British schoolchildren. When the patterns were reproduced as wire models, the Zambian children excelled the British. When the patterns were reproduced by drawing, the British children excelled the Zambian. No reliable cross-cultural differences were found when the patterns were reproduced as plasticine models or as configurations of hand positions. Both cultural groups were equally adversely affected when required to perform the modelling tasks or the hand positions task blind-folded. The results are interpreted as suggesting that cross-cultural differences in performance of pattern reproduction tasks reflect different sets of highly specific perceptual skills rather than differences on broader cognitive variables such as practical intelligence, field-dependency or sensotypes.