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Word representation and processing in deaf readers: Evidence from ERPs and eye-tracking

  • Author(s): Lee, Brittany Alexandra
  • Advisor(s): Emmorey, Karen
  • et al.
Abstract

Skilled hearing readers activate phonological, orthographic, and semantic representations in order to recognize and comprehend words. However, deaf readers may achieve reading comprehension by different means. More specifically, enhanced visual attention, reduced access to phonology, and bimodal bilingualism may influence how deaf readers represent and process words. In this dissertation, I introduce the topic of deaf readers and review literature describing the unique sensory and linguistic experiences that shape how they read. I then present data from a set of behavioral, eye tracking, and electrophysiological studies to compare deaf and hearing readers matched on reading skill and identify alternative approaches to achieving reading success. In Chapter 2, I present a pair of eye tracking studies that suggest deaf readers are more efficient at processing words in sentences and more sensitive to letter transpositions compared to hearing readers. In Chapter 3, I present ERP data from a masked lexical decision experiment showing similarities in how deaf and hearing readers process words and nonwords at sublexical and lexical levels. In Chapter 4, I use ERP evidence to demonstrate that deaf readers co-activate English word representations when recognizing ASL signs. Overall, deaf readers are more sensitive to the visual-orthographic structure of words, which makes them more reliant on orthographic representations during word recognition and more efficient at processing visual word forms in sentence reading.

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