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The effect of sign language rehearsal on deaf subjects' immediate and delayed recall of English word lists

  • John D. Bonvillian (a1), Cathleen Althaus Rea (a1), Michael D. Orlansky (a2) and L. Allen Slade (a3)


The relationship between sign language rehearsal and written free recall was examined by having deaf college students overtly rehearse the sign language equivalents of printed English words. In studies of both immediate and delayed memory, word recall was found to increase as a function of total rehearsal frequency and frequency of appearance in rehearsal sets. The serial recall curves in both memory experiments evidenced a primacy effect, which was interpreted as resulting from increased rehearsal of the words in the initial positions over the course of the list. In contrast to findings from previous short- and long-term memory studies with normally hearing subjects, neither a recency nor a negative recency effect was found. High imagery words were rehearsed and recalled slightly more frequently in immediate memory, but there was no effect resulting from the different imagery values of the stimuli in delayed recall. These results are discussed in relation to current conceptualizations of memory and of linguistic processing by deaf individuals.


Corresponding author

John D. Bonvillian, Department of Psychology, Gilmer Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22903-2477


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