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Short-term memory span: insights from sign language

Boutla, Mrim
Supalla, Ted
Newport, Elissa L.
Published in Nature Neuroscience. 2004, vol. 7, no. 9, p. 997-1002
Abstract Short-term memory (STM), or the ability to hold information in mind for a few seconds, is thought to be limited in its capacity to about 7 +/- 2 items. Notably, the average STM capacity when using American Sign Language (ASL) rather than English is only 5 +/- 1 items. Here we show that, contrary to previous interpretations, this difference cannot be attributed to phonological factors, item duration or reduced memory abilities in deaf people. We also show that, despite this difference in STM span, hearing speakers and deaf ASL users have comparable working memory resources during language use, indicating similar abilities to maintain and manipulate linguistic information. The shorter STM span in ASL users therefore confirms the view that the spoken span of 7 +/- 2 is an exception, probably owing to the reliance of speakers on auditory-based rather than visually based representations in linguistic STM, and calls for adjustments in the norms used with deaf individuals.
Keywords AdultAmericasAnalysis of VarianceFemaleHumansMaleMemoryShort-Term/physiologyPersons With Hearing ImpairmentsPhoneticsReadingSign LanguageVerbal Learning/physiology
PMID: 15311279
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Projects National Institutes of Health (DC04418 to D.B.; DC00167)
James S. McDonnell Foundation
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BOUTLA, Mrim et al. Short-term memory span: insights from sign language. In: Nature Neuroscience, 2004, vol. 7, n° 9, p. 997-1002.

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Deposited on : 2018-04-04

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