UMMS Affiliation

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center; Department of Psychiatry; Shriver Center

Publication Date


Document Type



Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms | Cognition and Perception | Cognitive Psychology


The dominance of the right hemisphere during face perception is associated with more accurate judgments of faces presented in the left rather than the right visual field (RVF). Previous research suggests that the left visual field (LVF) bias typically observed during face perception tasks is reduced in deaf adults who use sign language, for whom facial expressions convey important linguistic information. The current study examined whether visual field biases were altered in deaf adults whenever they viewed expressive faces, or only when attention was explicitly directed to expression. Twelve hearing adults and 12 deaf signers were trained to recognize a set of novel faces posing various emotional expressions. They then judged the familiarity or emotion of faces presented in the left or RVF, or both visual fields simultaneously. The same familiar and unfamiliar faces posing neutral and happy expressions were presented in the two tasks. Both groups were most accurate when faces were presented in both visual fields. Across tasks, the hearing group demonstrated a bias toward the LVF. In contrast, the deaf group showed a bias toward the LVF during identity judgments that shifted marginally toward the RVF during emotion judgments. Two secondary conditions tested whether these effects generalized to angry faces and famous faces and similar effects were observed. These results suggest that attention to facial expression, not merely the presence of emotional expression, reduces a typical LVF bias for face processing in deaf signers.


deafness, emotional expression, face perception, laterality, sign language, visual field bias

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Copyright © 2013 Letourneau and Mitchell. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

DOI of Published Version



Letourneau SM, Mitchell TV. Visual field bias in hearing and deaf adults during judgments of facial expression and identity. Front Psychol. 2013 Jun 6;4:319. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00319. eCollection 2013. PubMed PMID: 23761774; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3674475. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Frontiers in psychology

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.