Evaluating a split processing model of visual word recognition: Effects of orthographic neighborhood size

Michal Lavidor, Adrian Hayes, Richard Shillcock, Andrew W. Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The split fovea theory proposes that visual word recognition of centrally presented words is mediated by the splitting of the foveal image, with letters to the left of fixation being projected to the right hemisphere (RH) and letters to the right of fixation being projected to the left hemisphere (LH). Two lexical decision experiments aimed to elucidate word recognition processes under the split fovea theory are described. The first experiment showed that when words were presented centrally, such that the initial letters were in the left visual field (LVF/RH), there were effects of orthographic neighborhood, i.e., there were faster responses to words with high rather than low orthographic neighborhoods for the initial letters ('lead neighbors'). This effect was limited to lead-neighbors but not end-neighbors (orthographic neighbors sharing the same final letters). When the same words were fully presented in the LVF/RH or right visual field (RVF/LH, Experiment 2), there was no effect of orthographic neighborhood size. We argue that the lack of an effect in Experiment 2 was due to exposure to all of the letters of the words, the words being matched for overall orthographic neighborhood count and the sub-parts no longer having a unique effect. We concluded that the orthographic activation found in Experiment 1 occurred because the initial letters of centrally presented words were projected to the RH. The results support the split fovea theory, where the RH has primacy in representing lead neighbors of a written word.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-320
Number of pages9
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the European commission, Marie Curie fellowship grant, Contract No. HPMF-CT-2000-00787. Hayes was supported by a Nuffield Foundation bursary for summer student. All authors were supported by a joint activities grant of the British Academy.


  • Foveal split
  • Lexical decision
  • Orthographic neighborhood
  • Visual field


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