Symbol vs. digit substitution task performance in diverse cultural and linguistic groups

Josette G. Harris, Brandie Wagner, C. Munro Cullum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


In spite of limited empirical data to guide their use, nonverbal neuropsychological measures are frequently utilized in the assessment of non-native English speakers in an effort to minimize cultural and linguistic factors that may influence performance. In this study, three groups of participants from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds were compared on two brief, nonverbal substitution tasks sensitive to cerebral dysfunction: WAIS-R Digit Symbol and the Symbol Digit Modalities Test. Within each group, participants exhibited a similar pattern of performance, earning higher scores on Digit Symbol. However, when dominant Spanish speakers were further subdivided into higher and lower education groups, less educated Spanish speakers achieved lower scores compared to all other groups on both tasks, and failed to show the performance advantage for Digit Symbol. In spite of differences in the respective countries of educational experience, the more highly educated dominant Spanish speakers performed as well as monolingual nonHispanic and Hispanic bilingual participants on both tasks. Years of formal education appears to be the most relevant variable in explaining performance differences across cultural and linguistic groups on these tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)800-810
Number of pages11
JournalClinical Neuropsychologist
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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