The perceived mapping between form and meaning in ASL depends on the person's linguistic knowledge and task
In the second experiment, we selected a smaller subset of 430 ASL signs and asked another group of hearing non-signers to guess the meaning of the signs. They were then asked to subsequently rate how obvious (transparent) their guesses would be to other people. This tells us about how much a person, who doesn't know any ASL, can guess the meaning of the signs purely based on what the signs look like, and, if they did not guess the correct meaning, what the nature of their guesses was. For example, for a sign-naive perceiver, the ASL sign COOKIE may conjure up images of a "spider" moving around on a surface while others might say "open (a jar)" because of the twisting movement of the wrist. In the first instance, the person focused on the shape of the hand (clawed handshape) contacting the palm, and in the second instance, the person focused on the twisting hand movement. What determines how people extract the meaning of gestures? And for those who are actually trying to learn ASL signs (like me!!), how does the ability to extract meanings, which may or may not be irrelevant, impact their learning process - does it help or hinder sign retention?
Our study demonstrated that linguistic knowledge mediates perceived iconicity differently from experience with gesture.