Perceptual asymmetry during free viewing of words and faces: The effect of context on recognition

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Abstract

There is ample evidence supporting the dissociation between the role of the left and right cerebral hemispheres in processing words and faces, respectively. Nevertheless, research has not yet studied the effect of perceptual asymmetry in memory context effect tasks using words and faces. Thus, the present study researches the advantages of presenting information in the right versus left hemispace and the effect of context on recognition when using faces compared to words presented in the right versus left hemispace. Participants (n = 60) were assigned either to the group presented with pairs of words, or with pairs of faces. One stimulus in each pair was designated as the target (i.e., to be remembered) and the other served as context (i.e., to be ignored). Half of the targets were presented in the right hemispace, and half were presented in the left hemispace. As predicted, words were better recognized when presented in the right hemispace, while faces were better remembered when presented in the left hemispace. The most interesting finding is the influence of context on lateralized processing of words and pictures. That is, only when words or faces were presented in the left hemispace did contextual information affect target memory (though it yielded a different pattern of effect). Hence, the findings of the present study may be interpreted either as reflecting attentional bias to the left hemispace or structural differences between the hemispheres. Thus, cognitive processes and the content of the stimuli determine which hemisphere will be involved in processing contextual information.

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