[PS-2.3] Peripheral Attention and American Sign Language

Johnson, E. & Schotter, E.

University of South Florida

Native deaf signers' enhanced peripheral attention allows them to read more efficiently in English than reading-level matched, hearing controls (Bélanger & Rayner, 2015). This enhancement could be due to (1) compensatory brain reorganization from lack of access to auditory input (Chen, He, Chen, Jin, & Mo, 2010) or (2) extensive experience processing linguistic information peripherally (e.g. fixating on a signer's facial expression while simultaneously identifying peripheral manual signs). To test these accounts, we compared how accurately deaf and hearing signers of varying proficiency identified letter signs briefly presented at both near and far eccentricities. Deaf were more accurate than hearing participants (b = 0.85, z = 2.74, p < 0.05), suggesting effects of brain reorganization; proficient hearing signers were more accurate than their less proficient counterparts (b = 1.7, z = 2.4, p < 0.05), suggesting effects of signing experience. Percentage of accurate responses made by hearing signers declined at the furthest eccentricity (MNEAR= 0.87, MFAR= 0.72) more than for Deaf signers (MNEAR= 0.93, MFAR= 0.84), suggesting that a combination of sign experience and Deafness contribute to higher order cognitive changes that enhance peripheral attention and may lead to enhanced reading efficiency, even in a second language (i.e., English).