Perception, Language and Attention in Youth (PLAY) Lab

The newly-founded Perception, Language and Attention in Youth (PLAY) Lab's aim is to understand how early sensory experiences shape our visual, cognitive, and language abilities later in life. We study how deaf and hearing children learn through visual sign language, with the goal of understanding human cognition and learning more broadly. We compare behaviors and abilities of deaf and hearing people -- across all ages -- who use signed or spoken language.

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PLAY Lab director and assistant observing mother and baby playing in PLAY Lab

Find out more about
baby/child studies

Find out more about
parent/adult studies

Meet Our Team

Our Founder/Director

Rain Bosworth

Dr. Rain Bosworth is an assistant professor in Department of Liberal Studies at RIT/NTID. She is an experimental psychologist, studying development of perception and language in deaf and hearing children using eye-tracking at the newly-founded Perception, Language and Attention in Youth (PLAY) Lab. She got her PhD from the University of California, San Diego, studying visual motion processing and attention in deaf adults. She is currently investigating gaze behavior in infants and children while they watch stories in American Sign Language (ASL). The broad aim is to understand how early sensory input shapes perception, cognition, and language processing.

Our Research Team

Karen Putz water skiing and giving 'ILY' sign.Karen Putz is the Communications Coordinator for the SPACE Center and PLAY Lab. Karen has a master’s degree in deaf rehabilitation counseling from Northern Illinois University. She is the founder and past President of Illinois Hands & Voices and A board member of New York Hands & Voices. She is also an adjunct instructor at RIT teaching a wellness course called “Finding your Passion.” Karen is the author of multiple books, including The Parenting Journey; Raising Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children, Unwrapping Your Passion, and The Passionate Lives of Deaf and Hard of Hearing People. For fun, Karen can be found water skiing on her bare feet.
Adrita Arefin holding babyAdrita Arefin is currently in her final year of her Masters Program in Human-Computer Interaction at RIT. She graduated with a BS in Computer Engineering from RIT, and shortly after, she worked for the Department of Defense in Philadelphia as a Computer Engineer in the Cybersecurity Department. After working there for some time, she realized that she was missing the “human touch” in her career, and thus decided to combine psychology with technology. Her research interest focuses on studying how young children who are exposed to American Sign Language (ASL) engage with and learn from digital bilingual ASL-English stories on smart tablets by observing their visual attention to ASL-English storybook apps through the use of eye-tracking technology. Adrita is a proud mother of her 3 year old daughter and her 1 year old son. This inspired her to learn more about how digital media and iPad technology impacts young children’s cognitive development.
Nicole Taboada leaning against railing with blue sky behind her.Nicole Taboada is a graduate research assistant working in the NTID PLAY Lab. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from UCLA in 2020 and is currently working toward a Master’s Degree in Experimental Psychology at RIT. Living and working in academia has only further developed her strong passion for advocacy, research, and deaf education. She hopes to see more Deaf researchers in the coming years and is eager to play her part in reaching that goal. Outside of academia, you can find Nicole playing Tetris on her Nintendo Switch or hanging out with her (5 year old) puppy, Teddy.
Savannah Tellander is a graduate research assistant working in the NTID PLAY Lab and SPaCE Center. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from California State University, Northridge and is currently working towards a Master’s in Science degree in Experimental Psychology at RIT. She has formal training in interdisciplinary study of Social Science and Brain & Psychological Sciences from UCSB. She also has over 5 years of experience working in early childhood education, childcare, and psychological assessment with deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing children–as well as experience serving d/Deaf adult populations in social service and academic settings. She is excited to integrate her social science experience with her studies, and become a Deaf STEMist! When her nose isn’t buried in research, Savannah can be found writing fiction, testing (and tweaking) recipes, and enjoying long nature walks.
Headshot of Nick DespinsNick Despins is a research assistant working in the NTID PLAY Lab. He is currently a fifth year undergraduate student enrolled in the Biomedical Engineering (B.S.) and Exercise Science (B.S.) programs at RIT. During his time here at RIT, gaining exposure to Deaf culture has been very fascinating for him and he is excited to apply his technical background to research that takes advantage of the unique opportunities that are offered at RIT/NTID. Outside of academics, Nick is president of the RIT Running and Multisport Club here at RIT and enjoys art and playing sports.
Headshot of Michaela KihntopfMichaela Kihntopf is the Lab Coordinator for the PLAY and PAW Lab. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2023 with a BS in Psychology and Neurobiology. She loves learning about how early-life experiences shape children’s development, and is excited to integrate her research interests and lived experiences as a Deaf researcher. Michaela is especially excited to work with children after studying mice for the past 3 years (yes, they do bite). In her free time Michaela can be found reading, cooking, or playing with her dogs.

Our Collaborators

Matthew Dye, PhD
Director of the Space Center
Allison Fitch, PhD
Department of Psychology
Sarah Hughes, PhD
Institute for Applied Health Research
University of Birmingham


Name Major Terms Worked
Olivia Borkowski ASL Interpreting Summer 2023

Join Our Lab

We are recruiting postdocs, staff, graduate students, and undergraduates! Coming together from a wide variety of backgrounds, our team members are the backbone of PLAY Lab. Their ideas bring diverse ideas to help shape the direction and mission of our research. Read on to learn more about how you can get involved.

More information and how to apply

Open Positions

Aerial view of Rochester Institute for Technology campus featuring several brick buildings. Text: 'Advancing beyond the expected, WE ARE HIRING'

The NTID PLAY and RIT PAW Labs are hiring! Our labs focus on child development.

  • Post-doc Research Scholar (full time; possible remote, must know ASL)
  • Senior Research Assistant (full time; must)
  • Research Laboratory Technician (part time)
  • Student Research Assistants
  • Student Communications Assistant

Positions open until filled.
Please complete job inquiry form here:
Questions? Email

PhD Graduate Students

RIT’s Cognitive Science Ph.D. provides an interdisciplinary study of the human mind that combines insights from psychology, computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, augmented reality, and philosophy. Inquire for more information.

NSF Research Traineeship

Graduate students from associated RIT Ph.D. and MS programs are invited to review information on how to apply and benefits for Trainees at our NSF Research Traineeship website. Women, Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing, and African American, Latino/a American, or Native American students are especially encouraged to apply. A video describing the program in ASL is available here.

Earn Pay or Course Credit as an Undergraduate Research Assistant in the Lab

Undergraduate students can receive pay or course credit working on research projects in the SPaCE Center. The Center is made up of several labs, including deaf x lab, NTID PLAY Lab, PAW Lab, and RITE Lab. This opportunity provides exposure to a variety of methods used in psychological research, including behavioral experiments (measuring response time and accuracy), eye tracking, EEG, and observational studies. This is ideal for NTID or RIT students majoring in psychology, cognitive science, language sciences, or computer science. Graduate students are also encouraged to apply using this form. Click here to complete an online form to apply.



'Brainy Day' spreads education on the deaf community through play

October 14, 2023

The National Technical Institute for the Deaf’s “Brainy Day” community event in Rochester highlighted the fun in learning for children and their families. The event not only showed children the support they have, but also the community they have.



Please also see my Google Scholar or ResearchGate profiles for PDFs.

Bosworth, R.G., Hwang S.O., & Corina, D.P. (2022). Visual Attention for Linguistic and Non-Linguistic Body Actions in Non-signing and Native Signing Children. Frontiers in Psychology, 4799. (video abstract)

Bosworth, R.G., Tyler, S.C., Binder, E.M. & Morford, J.P. (2021). Automaticity of lexical access in deaf and hearing bilinguals: Cross-linguistic evidence from the color Stroop task across five languages. Cognition, 212, 104659.   (video)

Bosworth, R.G. & Stone, A. (2021).  Rapid Development of Perceptual Gaze Control in Native Signing Infants and Children. Developmental Science, doi:10.1111/desc.13086.

Bosworth, R.G., Stone, A., & Hwang S.-O.  (2020).  Effects of Video Reversal on Gaze Patterns during Signed Narrative Comprehension, Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 25(3).  283–297. 

Bosworth, R.G., Wright, C.E., & Dobkins, K.R. (2019). Analysis of the visual spatiotemporal properties of American Sign Language. Vision Research, 164, 34-43.

Stone, A. & Bosworth, R.G. (2019) Exploring Infant Sensitivity to Visual Language using Eye Tracking and the Preferential Looking Paradigm.  Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE), 147, e59581.

Stone, A., Petitto, L.A., & Bosworth, R.G. (2017). Visual sonority modulates infants’ attraction to sign language. Language Learning and Development, 14(2):130-148.

Blumenthal E., Bosworth R.G., & Dobkins K.R. (2013).  Fast Development of Global Motion Processing in Human Infants. Journal of Vision, 13(13) article 8.

Bosworth, R.G., Robbins, S.L., Granet, D.B. & Dobkins, K.R. (2013).  Delayed luminance and chromatic contrast sensitivity in infants with Retinopathy of Prematurity. Documenta Ophthalmologica, 127(1), 57-68. 

Bosworth, R.G., Petrich, J.A.F., & Dobkins, K.R. (2013). Effects of attention and laterality on motion and orientation discrimination in deaf signers. Brain & Cognition, 82(1), 117-126.

Bosworth, R.G. & Dobkins, K.R. (2013).  Effects of prematurity on the development of contrast sensitivity: Testing the visual experience hypothesis. Vision Research, 82(19), 31-41.

Bosworth, R.G., Petrich, J.A.F. & Dobkins K.R. (2012). Effects of spatial attention on motion discrimination are greater in the left than right visual field. Vision Research, 52(1), 11-19.

Bosworth, R.G. & Emmorey, K. (2010). Effects of iconicity and semantic relatedness on lexical access in American Sign Language. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 36(6), 1573-81.

Bosworth, R.G. & Dobkins, K.R. (2009).  Chromatic and luminance contrast sensitivity in fullterm and preterm infants.  Journal of Vision, 9(13), 15, 1-16.

Dobkins, K.R., Bosworth, R.G., & McCleery, J. (2009). Effects of gestational length, gender, postnatal age, and birth order on visual contrast sensitivity in infants.  Journal of Vision, 9(10), 19, 1-21.

Emmorey, K., Bosworth, R.G., & Kraljic, T. (2009). Visual feedback and self-monitoring of sign language.  Journal of Memory and Language, 61, 398-411.


The PLAY Lab is a critical resource in building a better understanding of how early sensory experiences shape our children’s visual, cognitive, and language abilities later in life. A major portion of our research focuses on the development and support of Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing children. While we are fortunate to have received support for our research, there is an ongoing need for general operating support of the Lab. Funding to maintain equipment, employ research assistants, support travel to conferences, and more, is critical in facilitating our work and in disseminating all that we will learn. If you are interested in supporting the PLAY Lab, please contact Bryan Hensel, NTID Office of External Affairs, at or at (585) 475-6222. Thank you for your generosity.

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