Conflicting strategies and hemispheric suppression in a lexical decision task

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Abstract

The research tests the prediction of the inhibitory-interaction hypothesis (Wey, Cook, Landis, Regard, & Graves, 1993) that experience with a task accentuates the functional imbalance between the hemispheres. Right-handed males who were experienced readers were presented a letter string to the centre visual field for lexical decision. The string was or was not accompanied by a blinking light to the left or right visual field. It was predicted that asymmetry would be greatest for strings that spelled words, less for strings that were orthographically correct (pseudowords) and least for strings that were orthographically incorrect (nonwords) because efficient adult readers have more experience with letter strings that do than do not spell a word, and have more experience with orthographically correct than incorrect letter strings. The analysis of response times supported the prediction. Moreover, in the nonword and in early trials of the pseudoword conditions, response times were faster when one or other hemisphere was distracted than when both were engaged suggesting the hemispheres use strategies that conflict when suppression has not been accentuated by practice. As well, as the trials progressed in the pseudoword condition, asymmetry reversed before increasing suggesting that the hemispheres reduce conflict by competing for and then strengthening suppression.

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