Is visual selective attention in deaf individuals enhanced or deficient? The case of the useful field of view

Matthew W.G. Dye, Peter C. Hauser, Daphne Bavelier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Early deafness leads to enhanced attention in the visual periphery. Yet, whether this enhancement confers advantages in everyday life remains unknown, as deaf individuals have been shown to be more distracted by irrelevant information in the periphery than their hearing peers. Here, we show that, in a complex attentional task, a performance advantage results for deaf individuals. Methodology/Principal Findings: We employed the Useful Field of View (UFOV) which requires central target identification concurrent with peripheral target localization in the presence of distractors - a divided, selective attention task. First, the comparison of deaf and hearing adults with or without sign language skills establishes that deafness and not sign language use drives UFOV enhancement. Second, UFOV performance was enhanced in deaf children, but only after 11 years of age. Conclusions/Significance: This work demonstrates that, following early auditory deprivation, visual attention resources toward the periphery slowly get augmented to eventually result in a clear behavioral advantage by pre-adolescence on a selective visual attention task.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere5640
JournalPloS one
Volume4
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 20 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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