Is learning by observation impaired in children with dyslexia?

Deny Menghini, Stefano Vicari, Laura Mandolesi, Laura Petrosini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Numerous studies have shown that imitating observed actions belongs to the same category of processes involved in planning and executing actions. New competencies may be acquired by actually executing a task or by executing a task after having seen how to do it. The performance of thirty dyslexic children was compared with that of an age- and gender-matched group of thirty normally reading children on tasks of learning a visuo-motor sequence by observation or by trial and error. The children observed an actor detecting a visuo-motor sequence and then performed the task reproducing either the previously observed sequence or a new one (Learning by Observation), or detected a sequence by trial and error (Learning by Doing), or first performed the task by trial and error and then performed it after an observational training (Learning by Observation after Doing). Results demonstrate that the dyslexic children were severely impaired in learning a sequence by observation, were able to detect a sequence by trial and error, and became as efficient as normal readers in reproducing an observed sequence after a task of learning by doing. Thus, the impaired ability to learn by observation could be reversed by agentive experience that supplied dyslexic children with a powerful learning mechanism, which enabled them to efficiently transfer action information across modalities. The beneficial effect of practice on the ability to learn by observation could provide dyslexic children a useful chance to acquire new cognitive abilities through more tuned teaching approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1996-2003
Number of pages8
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011


  • Imitation
  • Learning disabilities
  • Observational learning
  • Sequential learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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