Lexical access to signs is automatic

Abstract

Automaticity is the hallmark of linguistic competence; an encounter with a wordÍs form automatically activates its meaning irrespective of task demands. Stroop-like interference offers the gold-standard for automaticity, as it demonstrates the activation of wordsÍ meanings despite contrary task demands. However, most previous Stroop studies were based exclusively on hearing participants; one Stroop study examined ASL signers, but it was inconclusive. Accordingly, it remains unknown whether the automaticity of lexical access is a property of language processing, generally, or speech, specifically. Here, we examine the propensity of signs to induce Stroop interference among Deaf native signers of American Sign Language. æOur study featured monochromatic videos of ASL signs„either congruent color signs (e.g. the sign BLUE presented in the color blue), incongruent (e.g. the sign GREEN presented in the color blue) or a novel neutral sign, XX. Participants were asked to sign the color of the video as quickly and accurately as possible. Results showed that the congruency between the signs and the color reliably modulated response time and accuracy. Incongruent signs produced slower and less accurate responses than the neutral condition; congruent signs facilitated response time. æTwo additional experiments were run. Experiment 2 repeated Experiment 1 without the congruent condition. Experiment 3 required pressing a button rather than signing a response. Both experiments showed a reliable Stroop interference. æThese results suggest that Deaf native signers of ASL automatically retrieve signsÍ meanings. We conclude that the automaticity of lexical retrieval is an amodal property of natural language processing, irrespective of modality.