Center Papers

The Development Of Eye Gaze Control For Linguistic Input In Deaf Children

Lieberman, A. M., Hatrak, M., & Mayberry, R. I. (2011). The development of eye gaze control for linguistic input in deaf children. In N. Danis, K. Mesh, & H. Sung (Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th Boston University Conference on Language Development, pp.391-403. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.

Communication through sign language such as American Sign Language (ASL) requires constant visual attention, or eye gaze, as all information is received through the visual channel. For deaf adults, this is achieved by maintaining eye contact with the interaction partner. However, for children whose early interactions are often focused around toys, books and other objects, the task of obtaining and maintaining visual attention is more complicated, and requires more active work and monitoring by the individuals involved in an interaction. Thus deaf children need to understand how to establish eye gaze with their interlocutors before any meaningful language can be perceived. In other words, deaf children must "learn to look for language" in a way that hearing children do not. Furthermore, among deaf children, using eye gaze as a measure of attention, it is possible to observe and measure visual attention as it develops. This unique situation provides a window into children's cognitive control of attention from an early age.