The Infant Sign Perception Lab

Overview. Do babies of Deaf parents who use ASL "break the language code" earlier than hearing babies of Hearing parents who use spoken languages? Dr. Seal's infant visual head-turn experimental lab allows us to investigate answers to this question. Robust evidence from multiple researchers in the U.S. and abroad have shown that around 11 months of age, hearing babies turn their heads to "listen to" familiar words longer than they turn to unfamiliar words. Dr. Seal's research students from the HSLS Ph.D. program and M.S. SLP program test 10-month-old Hearing and Deaf babies exposed to ASL from their Deaf parents in hopes to answer this question: Is there an earlier preference observed for familiar signs in infants acquiring a visual-spatial language than the preference observed for familiar words in infants acquiring a visual-auditory language?

Facilities. The Lab is located in room 3122B on the third floor of Sorenson Language and Communication Center at Gallaudet University. Visual head-turn preference paradigm (VHPP) equipment includes a Mac computer and three Mac monitors, each mounted on one of three walls on which blackened drapes are hung. The monitor on the center wall is positioned at about 0° azimuth from an arm chair; the right wall's monitor and the left wall's monitor are angled at about 45°. These specifications replicate the dimensions of DePaolis' infant head-turn lab at James Madison University where Kulsar tested infants of Hearing and Deaf parents for his Au.D. dissertation research in 2011-2012. A 6 x 8 black screen separates the testing site from the Mac computer that rests on a desk. This computer is programmed with HABIT, iMovie, and Adobe software to run the experiments. Another PC (Dell desktop) is used for data storage and SPSS data analysis. The front monitor has an embedded camera that records infant head-turns. Two additional cameras, one a webcam positioned on the L Mac monitor and a tripod-mounted camera hidden within a black drape at the R monitor record infant head-turns for reliability purposes.

People. The lab is directed by Brenda Seal, PhD. Collaborators include Steven Kulsar and Rebecca Stevener (Ph.D. students); Marlene Medina and Veronica Cristiano (M.S. in SLP students).