Deaf quicker at catching body language

January 13th, 2012 - 6:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 13 (IANS) Deaf people who rely on sign language are quicker at catching on to body language than people with normal hearing, reveals a study.

The latest study suggests the deaf may be adept at picking up on subtle visual traits in the actions of others, an ability that could be useful for some sensitive jobs, such as airport screening.

“There are a lot of anecdotes about deaf people being better able to pick up on body language, but this is the first evidence of that,” said David Corina, professor of linguistics, University of California-Davis Centre for Mind and Brain.

Corina and graduate student Michael Grosvald, measured the response times of both deaf and hearing people to a series of video clips showing people making American Sign Language signs or non-language gestures, such as stroking the chin, the journal Cognition reported.

“We expected that deaf people would recognize sign language faster than hearing people, as the deaf people know and use sign language daily, but the real surprise was that deaf people also were about 100 milliseconds faster at recognizing non-language gestures than hearing people,” Corina said.

This work is important because it suggests that the human ability for communication is modifiable and is not limited to speech, Corina said, according to a university statement.

Deaf people show us that language can be expressed by the hands and be perceived through the visual system. When this happens, deaf signers get the added benefit of being able to recognize non-language actions better than hearing people who do not know a sign language, said Corina.

The study supports the idea that sign language is based on a modification of the system that all humans use to recognize gestures and body language, rather than working through a completely different system, added Corina.

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