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Language, thought and deafness : conceptual and methodological issues, with reference to visual-spatial processing, control of attention and sign language

Borgia, Sandi (1990) Language, thought and deafness : conceptual and methodological issues, with reference to visual-spatial processing, control of attention and sign language. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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A review of the literature indicated that a reappraisal of the conceptual and methodological approach to the study of deafness was necessary if research is to explain why deaf children fail to achieve the scholastic potential predicted by I. Q. tests. This study aims to test the utility and validity of an approach, in which the psychological consequences of deafness are viewed as an alternative perspective on normal human information processing; the result of functional adaptation to the environment. Qualitative and quantitative methods of data analysis, are used to examine process and structure underlying outcome. The approach is tested by examining control of attention and visuo-spatial processing and the relationship of these to language in severely and profoundly prelingually deaf children between the ages of 2 and 6 years, whose primary means of communication is British Sign language (BSL). These were examined using tests of problems solving, memory, intelligence and observational studies of play. The results emphasise the importance of visual information gathering and processing for deaf children. Control of attention is seen to vary as a function of the visual complexity of the environment and of stimuli, ease of environmental monitoring, and social factors. An observational study indicated that the deaf child uses language to direct his/her behaviour and as an adjunct to play. It was also observed that the ch ildren spent time exploring and using mirror images, and that this activity was related to BSL structures and functions. The use of these same mirror image like structures was also evident in visuo-spatial problem solving. In general visuo-spatial abilities were found to vary as a function of task and information characteristics, attentional demands of the stimuli and social factors; the presence of a deaf experimenter improved problem solving performance for concrete problems. The results were discussed with reference to Sign language, and its ability to represent information, and also interference, both positive and negative, consequent on tasks requiring the processing of both a visuo-spatial language and visuo-spatial information. It was concluded that the approach offered the potential to generate data which would lead to a richer, and ecologically more useful, description of the cognitive abilities of deaf children.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Medicine and Health (Leeds) > Institute of Psychological Sciences (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.513918
Depositing User: Ethos Import
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2009 14:48
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2014 10:27
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/168

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