The DRM paradigm in sign language: An investigation of associative memory errors in deaf and hearing signers

  • Joanna UlatowskaEmail author
  • Justyna Olszewska
  • Dominika Wiśniewska
  • Tomasz Rogowski


There is a lack of research investigating associative memory errors in sign language. Thus, the Deese/Roediger-McDermott (DRM) paradigm was used to test recall and recognition errors in deaf signers following four types of encoding: written words, signs, written words presented along with signs, or written words combined with self-produced signs. The results revealed poor memory for studied material along with a relatively low level of false memory for critical items. However, dual coding appeared to enhance veridical memory. Interestingly, a high rate of noncritical intrusions was noticed across all four encoding conditions. Similar results were obtained for recognition, however, there were no differences between encoding conditions in the false alarms rate toward critical lures. The results point to difficulties in accessing the meaning of words in deaf participants. To test this hypothesis a follow-up study was conducted where false recall and recognition of words or signs were tested in hearing participants fluent in sign language. The second experiment revealed semantic memory errors comparable to previous studies with hearing participants. The results from both experiments are discussed in light of previous studies on vocabulary knowledge in deaf individuals.


Sign language Deaf people The DRM paradigm False recall False recognition 



This work was supported by The National Science Centre Grant DEC-2011/01/D/HS6/05482.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All procedures performed in the study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study was approved by the Research Ethics Committee at The Maria Grzegrzewska University. The manuscript is original, not previously published, and not under concurrent consideration elsewhere. We confirm that the informed consent was granted by the participants and that they were debriefed.

Conflict of Interest



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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of PsychologyNicolaus Copernicus UniversityToruńPoland
  2. 2.Psychology DepartmentUniversity of Wisconsin-OshkoshOshkoshUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologySWPS University of Social Sciences and HumanitiesWarsawPoland
  4. 4.Institute of PsychologyThe Maria Grzegorzewska UniversityWarsawPoland

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