Perception of the Deaf people without hearing

Holding my three or four-year-old coda's hand, we strided into a large grocery store where the rows of shopping carts parked. My vision-oriented little girl, whose native language is ASL, suddenly stopped. Sensing the movement, I looked at her and followed her sight direction. I turned and looked at something. Gosh, I had never seen anything like in my life. Literally about 3 inches huge black bug helplessly struggled to move. It lay in the very middle of the cement near the facade.

Next, a middle-aged woman entered and took one of the carts. As I made eye contact with her, I pointed to the buggy creature along with a gesture. She looked through me as if I didn't exist. As I made attempts to make eye contact and some gestural communication with her, she appeared to see me or looked at me but made no acknowledgement.

As she strolled her cart, we gasped as her cart roller crossed over the bug percisely and the cart tilted momentarily. My curious daughter fully witnessed while I looked away momentarily and turned back. Again, the next moment, her shoe stepped on the poor creepy-crawly in pain. Another incredibly precise target! As I still looked at her, she walked through the sliding doors. Ignorance is a bliss. We witnessed the whole dramatic scene while nothing happened in her ordinary hearing world in that moment. In her shoe, I would freak out the moment I sensed something (definitely not a stone but probably guessed a plum or apricot) under my sole.

This story is not unusual. Many stories tell about hearing people's perception, including Deaf comedian Angela Stratiy's comedy performance satiring some of hearing world of perception.

Hearing roommate/sweetheart: "Where is the scissors? I couldn't find anywhere."
Deaf: (tells where it is.)

This is a common experience. Deaf people are more visually aware. Another example:

Hearing on the phone: (speaking).
Deaf: "Hey, I'm going to [where]. I'll be back." (checking for the response).
Hearing: (looking and/or sometimes nodding).
Deaf: Ok.
Hearing off the phone: (thinking "where did she/he go?").
Deaf (back).
Hearing: (relieved) "Why didn't you tell me?"
Deaf: "I did. I already did inform you."

It'd be dangerous for hearing people to be on the phone and driving.:)

This post describes the experiences of culturally Deaf people growing up not using any form of hearing as well as Deaf of Deaf families. And, their primary language is signed language and second language (e.g. spoken language) is written (visual).

This describes the experiences of Deaf people's visual-perceptual skills: spatial awareness, mental rotation skill, visual sensitivity, and more.

Sharp spatial-visual perception

"Visual-spatial perception, memory, and mental transformations are prerequisites to grammatical processing in ASL (Emmorey and Corina, 1990...)". Remind that speech is not a language but a medium. Language is amodal (That is, language is independent from modality or medium. Language is processed in the brain.).

Deaf children dicriminating faces

On the relation of the use of ASL to spatial abilities, the illustration above shows in a study that "deaf signing children can discriminate faces under different conditions of spatial orientation and lighting better than hearing children."

Because, ASL speakers and listeners also use faces as one of the articulators to convey linguistic information, such as topicalization, adverbial forms, conditionals, relative clauses, sentence types, and so on. They are sensitive to subtle facial differences.

Sharp kinesthetic perception

In another experiment, children were asked to write a Chinese pseudo-character each time they observed a lightpoint motion of the written Chinese pseudo-character in the air.

Deaf children recognizing characters

The result above shows a remarkable difference between hearing and Deaf children that deaf signers can detect and interpret moving light characters better than hearing non-signers.

"In this experiment, ... Deaf signers (both Chinese and American) were significantly better than their hearing counterparts at perceiving the underlying segments of these pseudo-characters. Figure 2b [above] shows the contrast between first-grade Chinese hearing and deaf children on this task." (Neville, 1988)." (p 141)

Well, despite these heightened senses, Deaf people are not immune from carelessness or accident. We are human too. We can be sometimes daydreaming or absorbed in something.

You may be also interested in: vision of the Deaf people.