Authors: Bacon, Alison M., and Simon J.Handley.

Article: Reasoning and Dyslexia: is Visual Memory a Compensatory Resource?.

Publication: Dyslexia 20, pages 330– 345 2014 | DOI: 10.1002/dys.1483

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Effective reasoning is fundamental to problem solving and achievement in education and employment. Protocol studies have previously suggested that people with dyslexia use reasoning strategies based on visual mental representations, whereas non‐dyslexics use abstract verbal strategies. This research presents converging evidence from experimental and individual differences perspectives. In Experiment 1, dyslexic and non‐dyslexic participants were similarly accurate on reasoning problems, but scores on a measure of visual memory ability only predicted reasoning accuracy for dyslexics. In Experiment 2, a secondary task loaded visual memory resources during concurrent reasoning. Dyslexics were significantly less accurate when reasoning under conditions of high memory load and showed reduced ability to subsequently recall the visual stimuli, suggesting that the memory and reasoning tasks were competing for the same visual cognitive resource. The results are consistent with an explanation based on limitations in the verbal and executive components of working memory in dyslexia and the use of compensatory visual strategies for reasoning. There are implications for cognitive activities that do not readily support visual thinking, whether in education, employment or less formal everyday settings.

Tagged as: picture-thinking, visual memory, and visual-spatial skills


Bacon, A. M., and Handley, S. J. (2014) Reasoning and Dyslexia: is Visual Memory a Compensatory Resource?, Dyslexia, 20, pages 330– 345, doi: 10.1002/dys.1483.