Block design test

Block design test

Block design is a subtest on many intelligence tests that tests visuospatial and motor skills. The testee is required to take blocks that have all white sides, all red sides, and red and white sides and arrange them according to a pattern. They are timed on this task and compared to a normative sample.

Historical background

The Block Design test was adapted by David Wechsler into the WAIS (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale) from the Kohs Block Design test developed in 1923 at Stanford University by Samuel Calmin Kohs (1890-1984). In a later revision by Hutt, scoring of the test incorporated the time taken to complete each trial [Hutt, M.L. (1932). The Kohs Block-designs test: a revision for clinical practice. "Journal of Applied Psychology, 16", 298-307""] .

Neuropschological assessment and illness

Good performance on the block design test is indicative of appropriate functioning of the parietal and frontal lobes. Head injury, Alzheimer's disease, and stroke can severely reduce the performance of an individual on the block design test [Lezak, Neuropsychological Assessment, 1995] . Additional evidence suggests impairment in block design performance among schizophrenic and bipolar disorder patient populations, though this represents only preliminary findings.

Spatial ability

The Block Design test is also a relatively accurate measure of spatial ability and Spatial Visualization Ability used in daily life [ [ Block design as a measure of everyday spatial abil... [Percept Mot Skills. 2000 - PubMed Result ] ] .Additionally, performance on the Block Design test has been suggested as a predictive measure for performance in fields such as engineering and physics. Accordingly Felder at North Carolina State University has developed a learning style questionnaire that attempts to assess spatial ability in an educational context [ [ Index of Learning Styles Questionnaire ] ] . The Block Design test is considered one of the best measures of spatial ability, although it is subject to certain problems of administration, such as testee anxiety or over-cautious responding. Linda Kreger Silverman has proposed the block design subtest as the best putative measure of spatial ability among the Wechsler subtests [ [ Identifying Visual-Spatial and Auditory-Sequential Learners: ] ] .


Uta Frith, in her book Autism: Explaining the Enigma, addresses the superior performance of autistic individuals on the block designtest. This was also addressed in this earlier paper: [ [ Why do autistic individuals show superior performa... [J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 1993 - PubMed Result ] ] . A particularly interesting article demonstrates the differences in construction time in the performance of the block design task by Asperger syndrome individuals and non-Asperger's individuals. An essential point here is that in an unsegmented version of the task, Asperger's individuals performed dramatically faster than non-Asperger's individuals: [ (see Fig 3, page 5] .

Science and engineering aptitude

Recent research has demonstrated a connection between spatial ability and math and science proficiency at the highest levels. Of particular interest, a recent study in the Lancet (2002) demonstrated that high spatial ability was related to the performance of surgery [ [ Effect of visual-spatial ability on learning of sp... [Lancet. 2002 - PubMed Result ] ] . Additionally, although this is somewhat speculative, Simon Baron-Cohen has shown the grandfathers and fathers of autistics were more likely to be engineers, and since it is known that autistics have an ability peak in block design, it is possible that an inherited ability for block design performance may be responsible for the increased number of engineers and scientists among the relatives of autistic individuals [ [ The link between autism and skills such as enginee... [Autism. 2001 - PubMed Result ] ] .


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