RIT/NTID researchers study how deaf and hearing people watch sign language

Summarized by Matthew Dehler, staff writer

Learning sign language is a very different experience depending on if you’re deaf or able to hear. For those who have good hearing, it’s merely a useful trait they can learn. However, to the deaf, it’s often a necessity for them to be able to communicate with others on the fly.

To further highlight the difference between the two groups, RIT/NTID researchers recently performed a study on eye movements. They compared the eye movements between those with hearing capabilities and those without. Readers’ eye movements are strong indicators of words that are new or difficult to understand. They can even indicate how hard readers are thinking.

The study found that highly fluent signers kept a steady gaze and used peripheral vision to identify what the other person was signing. They then showed the participants reversed videos of ASL stories. Those who learned ASL earlier in life had an easier time identifying and understanding the reversed videos. They focused heavily on the face for signing, even in adverse conditions. In contrast, novice signers had very different gaze patterns. Their gaze was more scattered, particularly in low-visibility conditions, and they didn’t make as much use of their peripheral vision.

For more information on the research, the full article can be found here.

Edited by Stephanie Stott, Staff Writer.

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