A sociodemographic and neuropsychological characterization of an illiterate population

Reis, A., Guerreiro, M., & Petersson, K. M. (2003). A sociodemographic and neuropsychological characterization of an illiterate population. Applied Neuropsychology, 10, 191-204. doi:10.1207/s15324826an1004_1.
The objectives of this article are to characterize the performance and to discuss the performance differences between literate and illiterate participants in a well-defined study population.We describe the participant-selection procedure used to investigate this population. Three groups with similar sociocultural backgrounds living in a relatively homogeneous fishing community in southern Portugal were characterized in terms of socioeconomic and sociocultural background variables and compared on a simple neuropsychological test battery; specifically, a literate group with more than 4 years of education (n = 9), a literate group with 4 years of education (n = 26), and an illiterate group (n = 31) were included in this study.We compare and discuss our results with other similar studies on the effects of literacy and illiteracy. The results indicate that naming and identification of real objects, verbal fluency using ecologically relevant semantic criteria, verbal memory, and orientation are not affected by literacy or level of formal education. In contrast, verbal working memory assessed with digit span, verbal abstraction, long-term semantic memory, and calculation (i.e., multiplication) are significantly affected by the level of literacy. We indicate that it is possible, with proper participant-selection procedures, to exclude general cognitive impairment and to control important sociocultural factors that potentially could introduce bias when studying the specific effects of literacy and level of formal education on cognitive brain function.
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