In what language do deaf people think?

10 January 2010

Question

Hi, I've got a question about deaf people. How do they think? I mean, how to they make ideas on their minds? For example, my native language is Spanish, so most of my thoughts are made in that language. But how does this work for deaf people? Does every person have his own code?

Answer

We put this question to Mairead McSweeney:

Mairead - Yes, so just as he thinks in Spanish and I think in English, so if you're a native user of British Sign Language, you would think in British Sign Language. So then the question really is, well, what's the nature of that thought? What's it like? And so, it can be visual or it could be manual, so motoric, and so we can use different methods in the lab to try and get at that question by using different interference techniques. And so, it seems to be a bit of both. There seems to be more weight towards a motor representation that people use in their minds and their thinking in sign language.

Chris - So they would literally see themselves doing the thing rather than think it through talking to themselves doing it like I might for example.

Mairead - Well, no. That would be a visual representation but there's more weight towards the motoric representation would be more like feeling themselves do it. It's just like you feel you hear yourself speak, if you like. A motor representation of the movement would be the type of representation that they might be bringing up when thinking.

Diana - So it's just like imagining eating chocolate in my head. I can feel the sensations.

Mairead - Yes, exactly!

Add a comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.