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Gaze patterns during identity and emotion judgments in hearing adults and deaf users of American Sign Language.


Young Adult, Sign Language, Reference Values, Pattern Recognition, Visual, Orientation, Middle Aged, Male, Judgment, Humans, Fixation, Ocular, Female, Facial Expression, Emotions, rehabilitation, psychology, Deafness, Cues, Attention, Adult

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      Deaf individuals rely on facial expressions for emotional, social, and linguistic cues. In order to test the hypothesis that specialized experience with faces can alter typically observed gaze patterns, twelve hearing adults and twelve deaf, early-users of American Sign Language judged the emotion and identity of expressive faces (including whole faces, and isolated top and bottom halves), while accuracy and fixations were recorded. Both groups recognized individuals more accurately from top than bottom halves, and emotional expressions from bottom than top halves. Hearing adults directed the majority of fixations to the top halves of faces in both tasks, but fixated the bottom half slightly more often when judging emotion than identity. In contrast, deaf adults often split fixations evenly between the top and bottom halves regardless of task demands. These results suggest that deaf adults have habitual fixation patterns that may maximize their ability to gather information from expressive faces.

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