What do finger movements reveal about how the brain reads braille? Barry Hughes, School of Psychology, University of Auckland
Computational models of print reading by the sighted rely on precise, high-resolution recordings of the rapid eye movements and the brief fixations that readers make when encountering text of differing degrees of complexity or ambiguity. These models, in turn, can better inform the teaching of reading and the diagnosis of reading difficulties.
What about braille? Couldn’t the same development enable us to understand --computationally and cognitively—how the brain reads braille?
I put this question in context in several ways:
- by describing how I think the two modes of reading differ;
- by presenting several phenomena that are features of both braille reading and other active touch behaviours (such as texture perception and sensorimotor contingencies) which are of captured the interest of researchers of artificial touch and robotics;
- by presenting data from readers at the opposite ends of the skill spectrum: those who are experienced and fluent, and those who are naïve and blindfolded and encountering braille for the first time.
I conclude with reasons for believing that research on braille is interesting, challenging --and vital for the revitalisation of braille literacy.
Biographical Sketch. Barry Hughes lectures in cognitive science at the University of Auckland. He has a long-standing interest in various aspects of the cognitive psychology of blindness. He completed his PhD at the University of Wisconsin under George Stelmach and where he was involved in research on ‘sensory substitution’ with Paul Bach y Rita, later extended with research on the blind in collaboration with Gunnar Jansson (Uppsala Universitet) and Ralph Haber (University of Illinois-Chicago). In his spare time, he is trying to learn Portuguese, to cycle faster, and to improve his chili pepper crop. He can reached at email@example.com