Sign Span Test

We have hypothesized that at least some deficits on language tasks such as comprehending complex sentences, can be accounted for by deficits in verbal (sign) working memory. To assess this possibility, we have developed a sign span task. Subjects are presented with sets of signs in an immediate serial recall task. Similar to the standard administration procedure of digit span tasks, the sign span set size steadily increases until the subject fails to pass criterion. Two trials at each set size are given, and subjects must recall each item on at least one of these trials to get to the next set size level. Subjects are instructed to recall the list in serial order. However, a strict serial order requirement is not imposed during administration; that is, if a subject recalls all the items on at least one of the trials they advance to the next level even if they failed to recall the items in the correct serial order. This allows us to score the test in two ways, one requiring serial recall, the other allowing any order. The test is halted when subjects fail both trials at a given level. The subjectís sign span is the highest set size for which they correctly recalled at least one of the trials, and separate score is given for serial and unordered recall. This procedure is done both with one-handed signs and two-handed signs, which constitutes a kind of length (or complexity) manipulation.

I will sign a series of words. Wait until I am completely finished and then I want you to repeat the signs I just gave you in the exact order.

One-Handed Group

1.  EAGLE              HAMMER

2.  INSECT              AIRPLANE

3.  IGNORE              KING              GIRAFFE

4.  FAVORITE              LAZY              KNOW

5.  ABBREVIATE       LEMON              OPINION              SECRET

6.  VEGETABLE       PARENT              METAL                     EMERGENCY

7.  BEFORE              DOLL              GOVERNMENT        FANCY              AUNT

8.  BACHELOR       PEANUT              CAT                            TENNIS              WATER

9.  SCISSORS              QUEEN              MEMBER                     ONION              BALTIMORE       JEALOUS

10.  DAD                     RAINBOW       NEED                     HIGH-SCHOOL       REALIZE       COACH

Two-Handed Group

1.  FACTORY              SATISFY

2.  HAPPEN              TEACHER

3.  INCREASE              PARADE       PAIR

4.  BALLOON              GIVE-UP       RELAXING

5.  TEAM                     JUDGE       GOSSIP              CALL

6.  CANCEL              IMPRESS       MANAGE       UMBRELLA

7.  NETWORK              DEAD       LEARN              MATCHING       BACKGROUND


9.  KNIFE              NEGATIVE       LAUGH              CAN              OCCUPATION       QUIET

10. READ              KICK              EASY              ABILITY       JOKE              OVERWHELM


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