Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Another Look at the STM Capacity of Prelingually Deafened Individuals and Its Relation to Reading Comprehension

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Another Look at the STM Capacity of Prelingually Deafened Individuals and Its Relation to Reading Comprehension

Article excerpt

(ProQuest Information and Learning: ... denotes Foreign text omitted.)

The study investigated the short-term recall of serially presented verbal(izable) information by prelingually deafened individuals and hearing individuals, and reconsidered how short-term memory (STM) is linked with their reading skills and their memory coding strategies. A computer-controlled paradigm calling for written ordered recall of 12 lists of 8 consecutively displayed Hebrew nouns was used to assess STM capacity. Forty-nine students with prelingual deafness (mean grade 6.9) and 39 hearing students (mean grade 6.5) participated in the experiment. Twenty-seven of the participants with deafness were raised according to an oral philosophy. The remaining 22 participants from the deaf group used sign language as their preferred communication code. In general, the findings suggest that neither discrepancy in the ordered short-term recall of verbal materials nor discrepancies in reading comprehension are directly assignable to differences in the memory coding strategies of prelingually deafened and hearing individuals. If such functional discrepancies develop, they reflect absent or insufficiently internalized knowledge.

Short-term memory (STM) is the memory component that retains information to be processed at a given moment, to guarantee task- (situation-)adequate behavior and learning. The amount of information that can be retained concurrently in STM is seriously limited. Moreover, information entered into STM fades rapidly. Because of these fundamental limitations, STM's optimal use must be considered as a prerequisite for successful performance of cognitive tasks, particularly highly complex ones such as speech comprehension, reading comprehension, problem solving, and learning. STM is assisted by two subordinate systems, the "phonological loop" and the "visuo-spatial scratch pad," that continuously reactivate (refresh) and recode information held in the STM buffer (Baddeley, 1986, 1990; Shiffrin, 1999). These slave systems counteract the basic tendency of information loss in STM by refreshing its memory traces and by putting them into the form that is most appropriate for retention.

The linguistic rules determining the final meaning of information conveyed by spoken and written language are engraved into the succession in which the listener or reader encounters (perceives) the sublexical, lexical, and supralexical units of the spoken or written message. Whereas the visuo-spatial scratch pad seems to be specialized for the retention of the visual structure of objects, as well as the spatial relations between different objects or among parts of the same object, it has been claimed that it is the phonological loop that is best suited for the processing and retaining of consecutively encountered information units (Liberman, 1992; see also Baddeley, 1986). It is therefore not surprising that proper functioning of the phonological loop is considered especially crucial to the efficient processing of sequential phenomena such as spoken and written language.

The phonological loop constitutes a natural (i.e., biologically based) tendency to phonologically recode different kinds of information, delaying its disintegration through a subvocal, serial rehearsal of the resulting phonological code (Gathercole & Baddeley, 1993; Liberman, 1992; Mattingly & Liberman, 1988). To be able to take advantage of the phonological loop during reading, the reader must decode the consecutively encountered written words phonologically, either by means of a grapheme-to-phoneme conversion procedure that assembles the sounds of their letters, or by postlexically retrieving their names from a permanent lexicon. Whereas for most readers these skills become highly automated after the initial stages of reading acquisition, for some, such cross-modal translations continue to remain difficult (Badian, 1993; National Reading Panel, 2000; Share, 1999; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). …

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