The effect of human engagement depicted in contextual photographs on the visual attention patterns of adults with traumatic brain injury

Amber Thiessen, Jessica Brown, David Beukelman, Karen Hux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Photographs are a frequently employed tool for the rehabilitation of adults with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) working with these individuals must select photos that are easily identifiable and meaningful to their clients. In this investigation, we examined the visual attention response to camera- (i.e., depicted human figure looking toward camera) and task-engaged (i.e., depicted human figure looking at and touching an object) contextual photographs for a group of adults with TBI and a group of adults without neurological conditions. Eye-tracking technology served to accurately and objectively measure visual fixations. Although differences were hypothesized given the cognitive deficits associated with TBI, study results revealed little difference in the visual fixation patterns of adults with and without TBI. Specifically, both groups of participants tended to fixate rapidly on the depicted human figure and fixate more on objects in which a human figure was task-engaged than when a human figure was camera-engaged. These results indicate that strategic placement of human figures in a contextual photograph may modify the way in which individuals with TBI visually attend to and interpret photographs. In addition, task-engagement appears to have a guiding effect on visual attention that may be of benefit to SLPs hoping to select more effective contextual photographs for their clients with TBI. Finally, the limited differences in visual attention patterns between individuals with TBI and their age and gender matched peers without neurological impairments indicates that these two groups find similar photograph regions to be worthy of visual fixation. Learning outcomes: Readers will gain knowledge regarding the photograph selection process for individuals with TBI. In addition, readers will be able to identify camera- and task-engaged photographs and to explain why task-engagement may be a beneficial component of contextual photographs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-71
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Communication Disorders
StatePublished - Sep 2017


  • Contextual photographs
  • Engagement
  • Eye-tracking
  • Traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • LPN and LVN
  • Speech and Hearing


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