Priming summation in the cerebral hemispheres: Evidence from semantically convergent and semantically divergent primes

Miriam Faust, Allon Kahana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


The ability to activate and to maintain a large and relatively undifferentiated semantic field has been thought to be an important component of lexical semantic processing by the right hemisphere (RH). An implication of this unique propensity of the RH was examined in the present study that included two divided visual field priming experiments with SOAs of 800 and 2500ms. The experiments investigated the ability of the RH and the left hemisphere (LH) to summate activation from multiple primes followed by a laterally presented ambiguous target word. The priming words either converged onto the same semantic representation (i.e. all three words related to either the dominant or to the subordinate meaning of the target) or diverged onto distinct semantic representations (i.e. two words related to the dominant and one to the subordinate meaning of the target, or vice versa). Results indicated that for either an 800 or 2500ms stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) the LH benefited most from three semantically convergent primes that converged onto the dominant meaning of the ambiguous target word. There was no facilitation when three subordinate primes preceded the target. When the primes diverged onto different meanings, there was significant facilitation for the 800ms SOA only. In contrast, with an 800ms SOA, the RH benefited only from semantically divergent primes, that diverged onto alternate meanings of the ambiguous target word. With a 2500ms SOA, the RH benefited from all combinations of primes. The discussion focuses on the implications for language processing of the differences between the two hemispheres in the scope and temporal pattern of the multiple prime effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)892-901
Number of pages10
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2002


  • Hemispheric asymmetry
  • Lexical ambiguity
  • Multiple priming
  • Visual fields


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