Spotlight TEDx Talk: The danger of thinking deafness is “bad”

Dr. Peter Hauser at TEDxGallaudet

Dr. Peter Hauser at TEDxGallaudet

What happens when deaf adolescents think deafness is “bad”? This is what psychologist Peter Hauser works to find out.

In a talk at TEDxGallaudet, Hauser shares a study that he and colleagues at RIT’s Deaf Studies Lab conducted to gauge how a perception of deafness as “good” or “bad” correlates with deaf and hearing adolescents’ psychological resilience — that is, their ability to process and move past stress, negative emotions, disagreements and problems.

The study uses a variation of the Implicit Association Test, a test developed by psychologists from the University of Washington in 1998, designed to reveal unconscious associations in human psychology. For Hauser’s purposes, the test determines whether or not young people unconsciously associate deafness with the concept of good or that of bad — a stepping stone to understanding the effect of this on their mental health.

Hauser’s test first asks participants to study a group of images related to the idea of “good” and another to the idea of “bad.”

Hauser's selection of "good"  and "bad" images

Hauser’s selection of “good” and “bad” images

After identifying these images, participants are shown a different set of images, these associated with the concepts of “deaf” and “hearing” through different colored bars:

Hauser's photos associated with "deaf" and "hearing"

Hauser’s photos associated with “deaf” and “hearing”

The final step of the test takes selections from both categories of images and flashes them on a screen, asking participants to point to the category of “good” or “bad” or “deaf” or “hearing” when an image is flashed. In the test, the four different categories are clustered together on either side of the screen i.e. “deaf” with “good” or “hearing” with “bad.” The reaction time of participants to identify an image to its category is used as a gauge to determine implicit association.

A demonstration of the test:

Hauser's "Deaf Implicit Association Test."

Hauser’s “Deaf Implicit Association Test.”

“The way we score [the test] is quite complicated,” Hauser says in his talk. “We have a fancy algorithm to analyze the data and the whole point is the reaction time … We were interested in when deaf and good co-occurred on the same side, whether that correlated with somebody having a strong sense of deaf being good … And if we had deaf and bad on the same side, then those people obviously would have a slower reaction … However, if somebody had internalized the notion that deaf was bad, they would have a quicker reaction time when deaf and bad were on the same side.”

These algorithms allowed Hauser’s team to split their participant pool into two groups — those who internalized deafness as bad and those who internalized it as good. Within these groups, the team then tested for psychological resilience, to see how feelings toward deafness affected young people’s ability to maintain prime mental health and withstand trauma and setbacks.

Watch the whole talk to discover the results:



Insight from the TEDx office — why we like this talk:

The speaker is a university-trained psychologist with ample experience in deaf studies. He presents his idea — that internalized views of deafness is a factor in the well-being of adolescents — through a study with clear examples, concrete information and obvious passion for his subject.

1 Comment

  1. JJ

    I would like to give a *dynamite* presentation. Please see my web site and i would like to share how i got involve mime. And my Deafness. My email jjmime@aol.com. thanks.

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