Putting It Into Words: The Impact of Visual Impairment on Perception, Experience and Presence

Fryer, Louise. 2013. Putting It Into Words: The Impact of Visual Impairment on Perception, Experience and Presence. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

The experience of being “present” in a mediated environment, such that it appears real, is known to be affected by deficits in perception yet little research has been devoted to disabled audiences. People with a visual impairment access audiovisual media by means of Audio Description, which gives visual information in verbal form. The AD user plays an active role, engaging their own perceptual processing systems and bringing real-world experiences to the mediated environment.

In exploring visual impairment and presence, this thesis concerns a question fundamental to psychology, whether propositional and experiential knowledge equate. It casts doubt on current models of sensory compensation in the blind and puts forward an alternative hypothesis of linguistic compensation. Qualitative evidence from Study 1 suggests that, in the absence of bimodal (audio-visual) cues, words can compensate for missing visual information. The role of vision in multisensory integration is explored experimentally in Studies 2 and 3. Crossmodal associations arising both from direct perception and imagery are shown to be altered by visual experience. Study 4 tests presence in an auditory environment. Non-verbal sound is shown to enhance presence in the sighted but not the blind. Both Studies 3 and 4 support neuroimaging evidence that words are processed differently in the absence of sight. Study 5, comparing mental spatial models, suggests this is explained by explicit verbal encoding by people with a visual impairment. Study 6 tests the effect of words on presence and emotion elicitation in an audiovisual environment. In the absence of coherent information from the dialogue, additional verbal information significantly improves understanding. Moreover, in certain circumstances, Audio Description significantly enhances presence and successfully elicits a target emotion. A model of Audio Description is presented. Implications are discussed for theoretical models of perceptual processing and presence in those with and without sight.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


visual impairment; audio Description; presence; crossmodal interaction; sensory compensation

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Date Deposited:

12 May 2014 09:59

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 08:58



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