Emergence of a Signing Advantage: An Investigation of Spatial Abilities of Adult Hearing L2 Learners of ASL

Autor/a: VERCELLOTTI, Mary Lou
Año: 2023
Editorial: Sign Language Studies, 23(1), 41-69
Tipo de código: Copyright
Soporte: Digital




Experience with a visual-spatial language may influence certain cognitive processes (Keehner and Gathercole 2007). Spatial ability is an important cognitive skill (Linn and Petersen 1985). Some research has found that deaf signers outperform hearing nonsigners on certain spatial tasks (e.g., Emmorey, Kosslyn, and Bellugi 1993) and that hearing signing participants outperform new signers and nonsigners (e.g., Talbot and Haude 1993) on certain spatial tasks. More research is needed to understand how much signing experience creates a signing advantage on spatial tasks.

This research investigated whether hearing adults learning American Sign Language (ASL) as a second language (L2) would outperform nonsigners on two spatial tasks: a mirror reversal with mental rotation task and the Differential Aptitude Test-Space Relations. Additionally, the research investigated which specific spatial skill might be strengthened with experience with ASL. All participants (n = 66) were college students, with normal hearing and (corrected) vision, enrolled in an L2 language class: second semester ASL (beginner signers), fourth semester ASL (intermediate signers), or Spanish (nonsigners). For the mirror reversal task, the mixed-model analysis of variance (ANOVA) results found that degree of rotation and the interaction between degree of rotation and reversal status were significant factors. The scores of both the intermediate and the beginner signer groups were significantly higher than the scores of the nonsigners. Contrary to previous research, these results indicate that even limited ASL learning may serve as spatial skills training. Results on the Space Relations task were analyzed with a one-way ANOVA, and the groups did not differ, suggesting that the ASL participants did not have greater spatial ability in general and that learning a visual language does not correlate with better performance on all spatial tasks.