Young Skilled Deaf Readers have an Enhanced Perceptual Span in Reading

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Beginning readers, deaf readers, perceptual span, word processing efficiency

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Recently, Bélanger, Slattery, Mayberry and Rayner showed, using the moving-window paradigm, that profoundly deaf adults have a wider perceptual span during reading relative to hearing adults matched on reading level. This difference might be related to the fact that deaf adults allocate more visual attention to simple stimuli in the parafovea. Importantly, this reorganization of visual attention in deaf individuals is already manifesting in deaf children. This leads to questions about the time course of the emergence of an enhanced perceptual span (which is under attentional control) in young deaf readers. The present research addressed this question by comparing the perceptual spans of young deaf readers (age 7-15) and young hearing readers (age 7-15). Young deaf readers, like deaf adults, were found to have a wider perceptual span relative to their hearing peers matched on reading level, suggesting that strong and early reorganization of visual attention in deaf individuals goes beyond the processing of simple visual stimuli and emerges into more cognitively complex tasks, such as reading.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, v. 71, issue 1, p. 291-301