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Emotional competence and language in children with Williams syndrome

The research project investigates interactions between emotional, linguistic, cognitive, and social abilities in children with Williams syndrome, a rare disorder with unbalanced competences within emotions, language, cognition and social behavior.

Project No. G 212

Tanja Tagoe

Williams syndrome is a rare developmental disorder of genetic etiology with an uneven emotional, linguistic and cognitive profile.  The research project examines how children with Williams syndrome talk about mental states, especially emotions. This ability overlaps with the Theory of Mind competence, which involves not only cognitive but also social and emotional skills. Theory of Mind is the ability to understand the behavior of others on the basis of internal states e.g. emotions, thoughts, intentions. This means being aware of the possible discrepancy between ones own mental states and those of others. The Internal State Language also concerns social-emotional skills, which includes the awareness of emotional states of others and the ability to feel empathy and sympathy.

I hypothesize a greater verbalization of emotions and a reduced expression of cognitive states in the Internal State Language of children with Williams syndrome. This hypothesis derives support from research on the restrictions in Theory of Mind for those with Williams syndrome. Given the uneven cognitive profile amongst those with Williams syndrome, one could expect comparably unbalanced abilites in the field of emotional competence. The investigation of the Williams syndrome can provide insight into the relationship between genetics and emotional and linguistic behavior.




Prof. Dr. Gisela Klann-Delius

Prof. Dr. Christina Kauschke