Event Title

Knowledge of Deaf Individuals and American Sign Language Improves Perceptions of the Deaf

Poster Number

23

Presenter Information

Felicia Harnish, Winthrop University

Faculty Mentor

Merry Sleigh, Ph.D.

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Psychology

Location

Richardson Ballroom

Start Date

24-4-2015 1:20 PM

End Date

24-4-2015 2:50 PM

Description

Eighty-five adults responded to ‘Opinions about Deaf People’ (Berkay, Gardner, & Smith, 1995). We also assessed participants’ personal experiences with deaf individuals and knowledge of American Sign Language (ASL). Results revealed that adults had generally positive attitudes toward deaf individuals. The ASL Knowledge score was 2.91 (SD = 1.69) on a six point scale. The more positively participants felt toward deaf individuals, the more ASL and deaf individuals they knew. Overall, participants reported very little contact with deaf individuals. There were no gender differences on any of our variables. Freshmen and sophomores were more likely than upperclassmen to agree that deaf individuals are incapable of living alone and that it is impossible for deaf individuals to keep up with their hearing peers in school. Perhaps these younger students are struggling to learn to live on their own and manage classwork, and are thus sensitive to the extra challenges that a deaf individual would face in these situations. However, even upperclassmen had pockets of negative attitudes. As one example, compared to all other students, seniors were least likely to agree that a deaf individual could escape a fire as easily as a hearing individual. In sum, attitudes toward deaf individuals were generally positive and more so for people who knew deaf individuals and ASL. This finding supports data collected over a decade ago (Nikolaraizi & Makri, 2004). Interestingly, the contradictory data based on year in school suggests that life experience is not enough to shape attitudes; improved attitudes were linked specifically to exposure to deaf culture.

Comments

Presented at the Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA) Annual Meeting, March 2015

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Apr 24th, 1:20 PM Apr 24th, 2:50 PM

Knowledge of Deaf Individuals and American Sign Language Improves Perceptions of the Deaf

Richardson Ballroom

Eighty-five adults responded to ‘Opinions about Deaf People’ (Berkay, Gardner, & Smith, 1995). We also assessed participants’ personal experiences with deaf individuals and knowledge of American Sign Language (ASL). Results revealed that adults had generally positive attitudes toward deaf individuals. The ASL Knowledge score was 2.91 (SD = 1.69) on a six point scale. The more positively participants felt toward deaf individuals, the more ASL and deaf individuals they knew. Overall, participants reported very little contact with deaf individuals. There were no gender differences on any of our variables. Freshmen and sophomores were more likely than upperclassmen to agree that deaf individuals are incapable of living alone and that it is impossible for deaf individuals to keep up with their hearing peers in school. Perhaps these younger students are struggling to learn to live on their own and manage classwork, and are thus sensitive to the extra challenges that a deaf individual would face in these situations. However, even upperclassmen had pockets of negative attitudes. As one example, compared to all other students, seniors were least likely to agree that a deaf individual could escape a fire as easily as a hearing individual. In sum, attitudes toward deaf individuals were generally positive and more so for people who knew deaf individuals and ASL. This finding supports data collected over a decade ago (Nikolaraizi & Makri, 2004). Interestingly, the contradictory data based on year in school suggests that life experience is not enough to shape attitudes; improved attitudes were linked specifically to exposure to deaf culture.