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Article

More than the verbal stimulus matters: Visual attention in Language assessment for people with aphasia using multiple-choice image displays.

Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. 2017. Vol. 60. P. 1348-1361.
Heuer S., Ivanova M., Hallowell B.

Purpose: Language comprehension in people with aphasia (PWA) is frequently evaluated using multiple-choice displays: PWA are asked to choose the image that best corresponds to the verbal stimulus in a display. When a nontarget image is selected, comprehension failure is assumed. However stimulus-driven factors unrelated to linguistic comprehension may influence performance. In this study we explore the influence of physical image characteristics of multiple-choice image displays on visual attention allocation of PWA.

Methods: Eye fixations of 41 PWA were recorded while they viewed 40 multiple-choice image sets presented with and without verbal stimuli. Within each display, three images (majority images) were the same and one image (singleton image) differed in terms of one image characteristic. The mean proportion of fixation duration (PFD) allocated across majority images was compared against the PFD allocated to singleton images.

Results: PWA allocated significantly greater PFD to the singleton than to the majority images in both nonverbal and verbal conditions.  Those with greater severity of comprehension deficits allocated greater PFD to nontarget singleton images in the verbal condition.

Conclusions: When using tasks that rely on multiple-choice displays and verbal stimuli, one cannot assume that verbal stimuli will override the effect of visual stimulus characteristics.