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Auditory access, language access, and implicit sequence learning in deaf children.


Developmental psychology plays a central role in shaping evidence-based best practices for prelingually deaf children. The Auditory Scaffolding Hypothesis (Conway et al., 2009) asserts that a lack of auditory stimulation in deaf children leads to impoverished implicit sequence learning abilities, measured via an artificial grammar learning (AGL) task. However, prior research is confounded by a lack of both auditory and language input. The current study examines implicit learning in deaf children who were (Deaf native signers) or were not (oral cochlear implant users) exposed to language from birth, and in hearing children, using both AGL and Serial Reaction Time (SRT) tasks. Neither deaf nor hearing children across the three groups show evidence of implicit learning on the AGL task, but all three groups show robust implicit learning on the SRT task. These findings argue against the Auditory Scaffolding Hypothesis, and suggest that implicit sequence learning may be resilient to both auditory and language deprivation, within the tested limits. A video abstract of this article can be viewed at: [Correction added on 07 August 2017, after first online publication: The video abstract link was added.].

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