Exploring Gaze Behaviors Toward Images of Physically Active Individuals with a Physical Disability

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Weissman, Shannon
Lithopoulos, Alexandra
Tomasone, Jennifer
Latimer-Cheung, Amy
Objectives: The study had two main objectives: (1) to characterize able-bodied adults’ gaze behaviors when viewing images of people with and without physical disabilities and in turn, (2) to examine whether portraying a person with a disability as physically active (shown participating in physical activity [i.e, sport/exercise]) versus inactive (not engaging in physical activity) affects gaze behavior. The study also had an exploratory objective: to examine the specific physical traits able-bodied adults gaze at when viewing active versus inactive people with physical disabilities. Design: Within-subjects cross-sectional design consisting of 63 men and women without self-reported disabilities (Mage = 21.22 ± 2.52 years). Method: Participants viewed a series of 48 images for five seconds each. Images featured an able-bodied or disabled, active or inactive model. Eye movements were recorded while viewing each image. Differences in gaze behavior were assessed using a series of repeated measures multivariate factorial ANOVAs with Bonferroni-corrected pairwise comparisons to decompose interactions. Results: Participants gazed significantly more at images of individuals with physical disabilities than images of able-bodied individuals. Furthermore, participants gazed significantly less at images portraying active versus inactive individuals with physical disabilities. A greater proportion of gaze behavior was directed toward the assistive device when the person with a disability was portrayed as active versus inactive. Conclusions: This study demonstrated that able-bodied adults may gaze less at images of individuals with physical disabilities who are depicted as active versus inactive. Further research is needed to examine how these gaze patterns translate to live social situations