Dr Eva Gutierrez-Sigut Gutierrez

Department of Psychology
Dr Eva Gutierrez-Sigut Gutierrez



I am a cognitive neuroscientist interested in how atypical language development, due to early onset deafness, impacts language and reading skills, at both the behavioural and neuropsychological levels. After obtaining my PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of La Laguna (Spain), I was a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California Davis (USA) for three years. Then I spent 4 years as a research fellow at the UCL Deafness, Cognition and Language research centre (UK) and a further 3 years as an independent research fellow at the University of Valencia (Spain). After a short lectureship at University of East London I joined the department in July 2019. Some of the highlights of my research are: In studies of sign language processing, I found that deaf signers process both phonological and semantic information of signs using similar—but not identical—mechanisms as hearing people do to understand words. I demonstrated that some idiosyncrasies of signed languages, for example, the stronger link between phonology and semantics in signs, are reflected in the brain electrophysiological signature of sign comprehension. I also found a stronger left lateralization for sign than spoken production, possibly reflecting the specific phonological demands of signed languages. In studies of written language processing, I have demonstrated that deaf readers can use phonological information of words automatically. However, unlike hearing readers, the use of this phonological information did not contribute to reading comprehension attainment. I have also shown that skilled deaf readers have a stronger connection between the orthographic and lexical-semantic level of processing than less skilled deaf readers. In future studies, I plan to investigate how the interplay between form and meaning of written words affects comprehension of longer texts in deaf readers. My long-term research goal is to identify the variables that contribute to reading proficiency in people born deaf, including those with a cochlear implant.


  • PhD Psychology (Cognitive Neuroscience) Universidad de La Laguna, (2008)


University of Essex

  • Lecturer, Department of Psychology, University of Essex (28/7/2019 - present)

Research and professional activities

Research interests

Cognitive psychology of language; Reading; Deafness; Hearing impairment; Atypical language development; Sign Language processing

My research has focused on how atypical language development, due to early onset deafness, impacts language and reading skills, at both the behavioural and neuropsychological levels. I am particularly interested in how the use of phonological and semantic properties of language influence reading attainment in deaf people. My long-term research goal is to identify the variables that contribute to reading proficiency in people born deaf, including those with a cochlear implant. This knowledge would allow us to develop efficient tools to identify deaf children who are more likely to struggle with literacy. Furthermore, identifying alternative mechanisms for efficient reading, in the absence of a well specified phonological representation, would inform training programmes for deaf people and also for hearing people that struggle with reading (e.g. visual learners, some dyslexic children or late bilinguals—who might lack the ability to distinguish phonological contrasts not present in their native language). My work will also inform our understanding of the reading process more broadly. This could allow for more parsimonious theories of language processing and literacy development, that should include language processing mechanisms not necessarily dependant on sound-based representations.

Key words: Cognitive neuroscience
Open to supervise


Open to supervise

Experimental Psychology

Open to supervise


Open to supervise

Sign Language

Open to supervise

Altered Language Experience

Open to supervise

Atypical Language Development

Open to supervise


Open to supervise


Open to supervise

Reading Acquisition

Open to supervise

Visual Word processing

Open to supervise

Orthographic Processing

Open to supervise

Phonological Processing

Open to supervise


Open to supervise

Event Related Potentials

Open to supervise

Brain Lateralization for Language

Open to supervise

Development of brain lateralisation

Open to supervise

Current research

Integration of phonology and meaning during sentence reading in deaf people

Deaf people often find reading an extremely difficult task. Most deaf adults only achieve a reading level equivalent to that of a 10-year-old, and this may negatively impact their academic achievement as well as their social and emotional well-being. Besides general language skills, understanding the meaning of printed words requires fast and accurate decoding of their orthography and phonology. As people born deaf have limited access to the phonology of speech, their poor reading skills are often explained in terms of their reduced use of spoken phonology during accessing the meaning of the written words (Perfetti & Sandak, 2000 but see Mayberry et al., 2011 for a metanalysis offering a different view). However, deaf people perceive the world mainly through their eyes and they tend to show excellent visual processing skills (Belanger et al., 2012). Recent research suggests that the connections between the visual-orthographic and the semantic levels of language processing might have a stronger influence than phonological processing on deaf people’s reading ability. Here's an example of this kind of research, which at the moment is at an early phase of developing appropriate materials and testing a control group hearing participants. Example: Integration of phonology and meaning. Recent Event Related Potential (ERP) research indicates that, when words are presented in isolation, deaf readers access phonological information from words automatically during word recognition. Interestingly, their use of phonology at the single word level is not related to their reading ability in the same way that it is related in hearing readers (Gutierrez-Sigut et at. 2017; 2018). However, there is a possibility that deficits in phonological processing only have a clear impact when the difficulty of the task is increased, for example by having to integrate the meanings of several words in a sentence. This project would investigate whether using phonological information from words modulates access to meaning during sentence reading. For example, we will look at the time course of the brain’s electrophysiological response to sentences like these: 1) She worked at a really isolated cabin, she wanted to find some peace to write 2) She worked at a really isolated cabin, she wanted to find some piece to write 3) She worked at a really isolated cabin, she wanted to find some socks to write Then we will look at the relationship between the ERP waves and a measure of reading ability. The goal of this line of research is to identify when—if at all—deficits in the use of phonological information explain poor reading ability in deaf people.

Teaching and supervision

Current teaching responsibilities

  • Discovering Psychology: The Science Behind Human Behaviour (PS111)

  • Preparing for University Psychology (PS116)

  • Applied Psychology (PS118)

  • Memory Attention and Language (PS415)

  • Advanced Memory, Attention and Language (PS922)


Journal articles (22)

Gutiérrez-Sigut, E., Marcet, A. and Perea, M., (2019). Tracking the time course of letter visual-similarity effects during word recognition: A masked priming ERP investigation. Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience. 19 (4), 966-984

Payne, H., Gutierrez-Sigut, E., Woll, B. and MacSweeney, M., (2019). Cerebral lateralisation during signed and spoken language production in children born deaf. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience. 36, 100619-100619

Gutierrez-Sigut, E., Vergara-Martínez, M. and Perea, M., (2019). Deaf readers benefit from lexical feedback during orthographic processing. Scientific Reports. 9 (1), 12321-

Evans, S., Price, CJ., Diedrichsen, J., Gutierrez-Sigut, E. and MacSweeney, M., (2019). Sign and Speech Share Partially Overlapping Conceptual Representations. Current Biology. 29 (21), 3739-3747.e5

Gutierrez, E., Vergara-Martínez, M., Marcet, A. and Perea, M., (2018). Automatic use of phonological codes during word recognition in deaf signers of Spanish Sign Language.. FEAST. Formal and Experimental Advances in Sign language Theory. 1, 1-15

Gutierrez-Sigut, E., Vergara-Martínez, M. and Perea, M., (2017). Early use of phonological codes in deaf readers: An ERP study. Neuropsychologia. 106, 261-279

Gutierrez-Sigut, E., Payne, H. and MacSweeney, M., (2016). Examining the contribution of motor movement and language dominance to increased left lateralization during sign generation in native signers. Brain and Language. 159, 109-117

Gutierrez-Sigut, E., Costello, B., Baus, C. and Carreiras, M., (2016). LSE-Sign: A lexical database for Spanish Sign Language.. Behavior Research Methods. 48 (1), 123-137

Corina, DP. and Gutierrez, E., (2016). Embodiment and American Sign Language Exploring sensory-motor influences in the recognition of American Sign Language. Gesture. 15 (3), 291-305

Gutierrez-Sigut, E., Daws, R., Payne, H., Blott, J., Marshall, C. and MacSweeney, M., (2015). Language lateralization of hearing native signers: A functional transcranial Doppler sonography (fTCD) study of speech and sign production. Brain and Language. 151, 23-34

Payne, H., Gutierrez-Sigut, E., Subik, J., Woll, B. and MacSweeney, M., (2015). Stimulus rate increases lateralisation in linguistic and non-linguistic tasks measured by functional transcranial Doppler sonography. Neuropsychologia. 72, 59-69

Gutierrez-Sigut, E., Payne, H. and MacSweeney, M., (2015). Investigating language lateralization during phonological and semantic fluency tasks using functional transcranial Doppler sonography. Laterality. 20 (1), 49-68

Baus, C., Gutiérrez, E. and Carreiras, M., (2014). The role of syllables in sign language production. Frontiers in Psychology. 5 (NOV), 1254-

Cates, D., Gutiérrez, E., Hafer, S., Barrett, R. and Corina, D., (2013). Location, Location, Location. Sign Language Studies. 13 (4), 433-461

Silva-Pereyra, J., Gutierrez-Sigut, E. and Carreiras, M., (2012). An ERP study of coreference in Spanish: Semantic and grammatical gender cues. Psychophysiology. 49 (10), 1401-1411

Gutierrez, E., Williams, D., Grosvald, M. and Corina, D., (2012). Lexical access in American Sign Language: An ERP investigation of effects of semantics and phonology. Brain Research. 1468, 63-83

Gutiérrez, E., Müller, O., Baus, C. and Carreiras, M., (2012). Electrophysiological evidence for phonological priming in Spanish Sign Language lexical access. Neuropsychologia. 50 (7), 1335-1346

Grosvald, M., Gutierrez, E., Hafer, S. and Corina, D., (2012). Dissociating linguistic and non-linguistic gesture processing: Electrophysiological evidence from American Sign Language. Brain and Language. 121 (1), 12-24

ZAWISZEWSKI, A., GUTIÉRREZ, EVA., FERNÁNDEZ, B. and LAKA, I., (2011). Language distance and non-native syntactic processing: Evidence from event-related potentials. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. 14 (3), 400-411

Carreiras, M., Gutiérrez-Sigut, E., Baquero, S. and Corina, D., (2008). Lexical processing in Spanish Sign Language (LSE). Journal of Memory and Language. 58 (1), 100-122

Baus, C., Gutiérrez-Sigut, E., Quer, J. and Carreiras, M., (2008). Lexical access in Catalan Signed Language (LSC) production. Cognition. 108 (3), 856-865

Duñabeitia, JA., Perea, M., Gutiérrez, E., Mena, Y. and Carreiras, M., (2007). Morphological priming involves more than orthographic priming. Anuario de Psicologia. 38 (1), 9-23

Books (1)

Gutiérrez Sigut, E. and Carreiras Valiña, M., (2010). El papel de los parámetros fonológicos en el procesamiento de los signos de la lengua de signos española. Fundación CNSE para la Supresión de las Barreras de Comunicación

Book chapters (3)

Goldrick, M., Ferreira, VS., Miozzo, M., Corina, DP., Gutierrez, E. and Grosvald, M., Sign Language Production An Overview. Oxford University Press. 393- 413. 9780199735471

Thompson, RL. and Gutierrez-Sigut, E., (2019). Speech-Sign Bilingualism. In: The Handbook of the Neuroscience of Multilingualism. Editors: Schwieter, JW. and Paradis, M., . John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 754- 783. 9781119387725

Manuel, C., Eva, G., Silva, B. and David, C., (2005). El papel de los parámetros configuracionales en el proceso de reconocimiento de signos: Un estudio de vecindario. In: Estudios sobre la lengua de signos española. Universidad de Alicante. 177- 185

Conferences (1)


Reports and Papers (2)

Gutierrez, E. and Baus, C., (2019). Lexical processing in sign language comprehension and production – experimental perspectives.

Evans, S., Price, C., Diedrichsen, J., Gutierrez-Sigut, E. and MacSweeney, M., (2019). Evidence for shared conceptual representations for sign and speech

Grants and funding


COVID-19 and reduced access to communication: the challenges experienced by deaf people

British Academy

+44 (0) 1206 874179


2.713, Colchester Campus