Linguistic Processes in the Two Cerebral Hemispheres: Implications for Modularity vs Interactionism*

Miriam Faust, Harvey Babkoff, Shlomo Kravetz

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Three experiments are reported on lexical decision to target stimuli presented to the right or left visual field (RVF, LVF) following a variety of priming stimuli, words, incomplete sentences, and scrambled sentences. Lexical decision performance is always superior for stimuli presented to the RVF. Primes always facilitate the discrimination of words from nonword target stimuli presented to either visual field. However, when the prime is a sentence which is completed syntactically and semantically by a target word (normal, congruent sentence), the facilitation for RVF presented targets is significantly greater than for LVF targets. When the prime is either: (1) a single word, (2) a nonstructured (scrambled) sentence, or (3) a noncongruent-related sentence, the difference in facilitation between RVF and LVF presented targets is much smaller. These data are discussed with respect to (1) the nature of priming by sentences versus words, (2) language processing by the two hemispheres, and (3) modularity versus interactionism in language processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-192
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 1995

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The present paper reflects the convergence of several experimental protocols in the neuropsychological and psycholinguistic literature. Those include: (1) the lexical decision task, (2) visual field presentation of stimuli, and (3) the use of a variety of priming stimuli. Each of these protocols was developed for studying different aspects of language (For reviews and discussions see, e.g., Carr, 1986; Chiarello, 1988; Neely, 1991). The experiments reported in this paper were designed to combine the three protocols for a better in-depth study of language and hemispheric processing and the extent to which models of modularity and/or interactionism may be applied to understanding language processing. Our claim will be that if wordlnonword discriminations in a lexical decision task are influenced by the higher level syntactic and message level information con-tained in incomplete sentence primes, this will support the argument that language processing is interactive. On the contrary, if wordhonword discriminations are intralexical only, that is, immune to the message level and syntactic information contained in incomplete sentence primes, then one might conclude that language processing is modular. In general, our results * Acknowledgments: This research was supported by grants to the first author from the ISRAEL FOUNDATI-ONTRUSTEES and the KORETFOUNDATION. The work was presented at the Institute for Advanced Studies workshop on Modularity and the Brain in Jerusalem, Israel in May, 1993. The authors are grateful to the Institute for their support. Please address correspondence to: Dr. Miriam Faust, Dept. of Psychology, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel. Accepted for publication: August 1, 1994.


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