This study investigated how signed performances express musical meaning and emotions. Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing (HoH), and hearing participants watched eight translated signed songs and eight signed lyrics with no influence of music. The participants rated these videos on several emotional and movement dimensions. Even though the videos did not have audible sounds, hearing participants perceived the signed songs as more musical than the signed lyrics. Deaf/HoH participants perceived both types of videos as equally musical, suggesting a different conception of what it means for movement to be musical. We also found that participants’ ratings of spatial height, vertical direction, size, tempo, and fluency related to the performer’s intended emotion and participants’ ratings of valence/arousal. For Deaf/HoH participants, accuracy at identifying emotional intentions was predicted by focusing more on facial expressions than arm movements. Together, these findings add to our understanding of how audience members attend to and derive meaning from different characteristics of movement in performative contexts.

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