Comparing the broad socio-cognitive profile of youth with Williams syndrome and 22q11.2 deletion syndrome

O. Weisman, R. Feldman, M. Burg-Malki, M. Keren, R. Geva, G. Diesendruck, D. Gothelf

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8 Scopus citations


Background: Numerous studies have assessed the socio-cognitive profile in Williams syndrome (WS) and, independently, in 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11.2DS). Yet, a cross-syndrome comparison of these abilities between individuals with these two syndromes with known social deficits has not been conducted. Methods: Eighty-two children participated in four study groups: WS (n = 18), 22q112.DS (n = 24), age-matched individuals with idiopathic developmental disability (IDD; n = 20) and typically developing (TD) controls (n = 20). Participants completed four socio-cognitive tests: facial emotion recognition, mental state attribution, differentiating real from apparent emotions and trait inference based on motives and actions-outcomes. Results: The current findings demonstrate that children with WS were better in labelling happy faces compared with children with 22q11.2DS, partially reflecting their exaggerated social drive. In the false belief task, however, the WS and IDD groups performed poorly compared with the 22q11.2DS group, possibly due to their difficulty to interpret subtle social cues. When asked to identify the gap between real-negative vs. apparent-positive emotions, the 22q11.2DS group performed similarly to TD children but better than the WS group, possibly due to their anxious personality and their innate bias towards negatively valence cues. Finally, individuals with WS were more willing to become friends with a story character even when the character's motives were negative, reflecting their difficulty to avoid potentially harmful real-life situations. Conclusions: Overall, our multi-facet socio-cognitive battery uncovered strengths and weaknesses in social cognition that are syndrome-specific, shared among the genetic syndromes, or common to the three clinical groups compared with healthy controls. Our findings underscore the need to devise age-specific and condition-specific assessment tools and intervention programs towards improving these children's socio-cognitive deficits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1083-1093
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Intellectual Disability Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the Keren Shalem Fund for the Development of Services for the Retarded in the Local Councils, the Gonda Family Foundation, the Binational Science Foundation (grant number 2011378) and the National Institute of Mental Health (grant number 5U01MH101722-02) for their support of this research. The work conducted by Dr Merav Burg-Malki was supported by a Bar-Ilan University excellence scholarship for doctoral students. The work conducted by Dr Omri Weisman was supported by a fellowship from the Sagol School of Neuroscience, Tel Aviv University.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 MENCAP and International Association of the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • DiGeorge
  • children
  • neurogenetic disorders
  • social cognition
  • theory of mind (ToM)
  • velocardiofacial syndrome


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