Deaf Eye Ministry
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The hearing participants in the present study looked at the nose i. Since all the participants in the current study were Japanese, this may be attributed to a cultural influence on eye movement. On the other hand, our Japanese deaf participants looked at the eye region most, closer to the fixation pattern of Western Caucasians in Blais et al . It has been reported that in a deaf community, eye contact is vital for communication because avoiding eye contact disrupts communication more profoundly than it does in sighted communities  ; this holds true for a Japanese deaf community.
Therefore, it is possible that the increased fixation on the eye region in our Japanese deaf participants may reflect their communication strategy. In this sense, the present study may be taken as an extension of Blais et al. The underling mechanism for differential scan paths between deaf and hearing individuals remains to be clarified. However, one possible mechanism is the altered distribution and processes of visual attention  .
Deaf individuals are more distracted by visual information in the parafovea and periphery . Since there was no difference in fixation duration and frequency outside the AOIs and no increase of fixation in the mouth region, the present finding cannot be explained solely by the attention emphasis on the peripheral processing. However, it is still possible that altered peripheral visual attention and scrutinizing strategy for faces may interact to produce the differential scan paths. Although the difference in fixation pattern was clear, it should be noted that the present study has considerable limitations.
One limitation is that the stimuli used in the present study were static, rather than dynamic, stimuli. Many studies of emotional expression have used static face stimuli.
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Yet, facial expressions are highly dynamic, and thus, static stimuli represent unnatural snapshots of them. Recent studies on dynamic facial expressions have shown that visual processes for facial expressions are essentially tuned to dynamic information  ,  , . Evidence supporting this notion comes from facilitative effects of dynamic presentation on facial processing   and enhanced neural activities for dynamic, as opposed to static, face stimuli  [—] . Therefore, it is likely that the pattern of results would be different if dynamic stimuli were used.
In particular, the relatively less fixations in the mouth region might be due to the use of the static face stimuli. It has been shown that the mouth region conveys useful information for emotion discrimination   , and this seems to be more so with dynamic face stimuli, e. Another limitation stems from the use of the evaluation task of emotional valence. Many previous studies have examined the scan paths during emotion discrimination and identification e.
Therefore, the present results may not be compared directly with those of the previous studies. Also, in order to elucidate the mechanism for valence evaluation and emotional processes, it is important to consider the relation between the time-course of evaluation processes and eye movement. The face stimuli used in the present study included some variations in visual information for emotional valence evaluation, which in turn would lead to different demands for different face stimuli.
Since the decision was not timed, we did not know when the participants reached their decisions. Therefore, the eye movement pattern may reflect either pre-decision or post-decision processes or both. The final limitation is the demographic peculiarity of the participants.
It is possible that the use of sign language Japanese Sign Language; JSL leads to enhanced attention to the eye region because changes in eye configurations convey various syntactic distinctions and grammatical information in JSL as in ASL  , . However, until around , most Japanese schools for the deaf emphasized oral education; i. Although manually signed Japanese which is a signed form of the Japanese language has recently started to be used in schools for the deaf, even now Japanese sign language is not officially taught.
Despite the above limitations, the present study showed the differential scan paths during observation of static face stimuli between deaf and hearing participants. Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. PLoS One. Published online Feb Jan Lauwereyns, Editor.
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Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Received Oct 16; Accepted Jan Copyright Watanabe et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are properly credited.
This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Knowing where people look when viewing faces provides an objective measure into the part of information entering the visual system as well as into the cognitive strategy involved in facial perception. Methods Ethics Statement The procedures were approved by the internal review board of the Tsukuba University of Technology, and written informed consent was obtained from all participants prior to the testing.
Participants We recruited 24 congenitally deaf Japanese people and 29 Japanese people with normal hearing function. Eye tracking Eye movements were recorded at a sampling rate of 60 Hz with the Tobii T eye-tracker Tobii Technology , which has an average gaze position error of 0. Procedure Participants were informed that they would be presented with a series of face pictures in order to evaluate the emotional valence of each face stimulus shown.
Data analysis The rating scores of emotional valence were first averaged for each expression by each participant. Open in a separate window. Figure 1. Example of areas of interest AOIs. Results Evaluation of emotional valence The averaged rating scores of emotional valence are shown in Figure 2. Figure 2. Mean rating scores of emotional valence as a function of expression in face stimuli. Eye movements Data from trials where no gazes were directed at AOIs i. Figure 3. Total fixation duration mapped onto an example face image: a deaf participants, b hearing participants, c female participants, and d male participants.
Figure 4. Relative fixation duration. Figure 5.
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Relative fixation duration for the different areas of interest as a function of facial expression, averaged over all the participants. Figure 6. Relative fixation frequency. Figure 7.
Relative fixation frequency for the different areas of interest as a function of facial expression averaged over all the participants. Discussion In the present study we examined the possible difference in the pattern of eye movements between congenitally deaf and normal-hearing Japanese individuals while they evaluated the emotional valence of static faces.
Limitations of the present study Although the difference in fixation pattern was clear, it should be noted that the present study has considerable limitations. Footnotes Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. References 1. Visual attention and hearing loss: Past and current perspectives. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology. Differences in visual search tasks between congenitally deaf and normally hearing adults.
Eye Gaze during Observation of Static Faces in Deaf People
Cognitive Brain Research. Proksch J, Bavelier D. Changes in the spatial distribution of visual attention after early deafness.