Thursday, October 20, 2011

People Have Powerful Appeal in Photos

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – College students looking at photographs spent more time gazing at the people in the pictures than the surrounding elements, even when those people were quite small or not centrally located, according to Penn State researchers. These findings could help the researchers develop better visual-scene displays (VSDs) — computer-generated images that help people with disabilities learn to communicate.
According to Krista Wilkinson, professor of communication sciences and disorders and the study’s lead author, traditional communication displays show a grid of abstract images to the viewer. Individuals — often children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome or autism spectrum disorders — are encouraged to communicate their ideas by pointing to one or more of the images in the grid.
"But," said Wilkinson, "this approach isn't effective because children don't learn their early words in isolation."
"Instead," added Janice Light, distinguished professor of communication sciences and disorders, and the other author of the paper that appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, "people formulate ideas in the context of the events and the people in their lives."

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