A research team led by the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) has found that Deaf infants exposed to American Sign Language demonstrated gaze-following behavior at a more advanced level than hearing infants.
The study, published Oct. 15 in the journal Developmental Science, finds that Deaf infants of Deaf parents may be more attuned than hearing infants to the social and visual signals of others.
“Children adapt to the people who communicate with them,” said Rechele Brooks, a research scientist at I-LABS and lead author of the study. “Whatever your social context is, you’re learning from the people around you. Children thrive through interactions with other people. This work shows that children tune into social cues in their environment starting from early infancy.”
While gaze following in hearing infants has been studied, the behavior hadn’t been formally examined in Deaf infants.
In the study, Deaf infants were nearly twice as likely as hearing infants to accurately follow the gaze of an adult. Younger Deaf infants (those between 7 and 14 months old) were even more likely to do so than hearing peers.
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