The well-known Stroop interference effect has been instrumental in revealing the highly automated nature of lexical processing as well as providing new insights to the underlying lexical organization of first and second languages within proficient bilinguals. The present cross-linguistic study had two goals: 1) to examine Stroop interference for dynamic signs and printed words in deaf ASL-English bilinguals who report no reliance on speech or audiological aids; 2) to compare Stroop interference effects in several groups of bilinguals whose two languages range from very distinct to very similar in their shared orthographic patterns: ASL-English bilinguals (very distinct), Chinese-English bilinguals (low similarity), Korean-English bilinguals (moderate similarity), and Spanish-English bilinguals (high similarity). Reaction time and accuracy were measured for the Stroop color naming and word reading tasks, for congruent and incongruent color font conditions. Results confirmed strong Stroop interference for both dynamic ASL stimuli and English printed words in deaf bilinguals, with stronger Stroop interference effects in ASL for deaf bilinguals who scored higher in a direct assessment of ASL proficiency. Comparison of the four groups of bilinguals revealed that the same-script bilinguals (Spanish-English bilinguals) exhibited significantly greater Stroop interference effects for color naming than the other three bilingual groups. The results support three conclusions. First, Stroop interference effects are found for both signed and spoken languages. Second, contrary to some claims in the literature about deaf signers who do not use speech being poor readers, deaf bilinguals’ lexical processing of both signs and written words is highly automated. Third, cross-language similarity is a critical factor shaping bilinguals’ experience of Stroop interference in their two languages. This study represents the first comparison of both deaf and hearing bilinguals on the Stroop task, offering a critical test of theories about bilingual lexical access and cognitive control.

Publication Date

Spring 3-2021

Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

Liberal Studies (NTID)


RIT – Main Campus