Visual memory and motor programmes: Their use by idiot-savant artists and controls


MRC Developmental Psychology Project, Institute of Education, 18 Woburn Square, London WC1H 0NS, UK


Artistically gifted children of normal intelligence and idiot-savant artists as well as two groups of IQ-matched controls were tested for their perception of and recognition memory for shapes. They were also tested for their capacity to graphically reproduce the shapes on sight (copying) or from memory. The material consisted of designs of two levels of complexity and structure.

Results showed that while IQ was the determining factor in matching and recognition performance, copying and reproduction ability depended on artistic ability and was independent of level of intelligence. These results are interpreted in terms of access to an intelligence-independent system of graphic representations which can evoke appropriate motor programmes.