Why word length only matters in the left visual field

Carol Whitney, Michal Lavidor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


During visual word recognition, string length affects performance when stimuli are presented to the left visual field (LVF), but not when they are presented to the right visual field (RVF). Using a lexical-decision experiment, we investigated an account of this phenomenon based on the SERIOL model of letter-position encoding. Bottom-up activation patterns were adjusted via positional manipulations of letter contrast. This manipulation eliminated the LVF length effect by facilitating responses to longer words, thereby demonstrating that a length effect is not an inherent property of right-hemisphere processing. In contrast, the same manipulation slowed responses to longer words in the RVF, creating a length effect. These results show that hemisphere-specific activation patterns are the source of the asymmetry of the length effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1680-1688
Number of pages9
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
M.L. was supported by the BBSRC. We thank Marc Brysbaert, and the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions.


  • Computational neuroscience
  • Hemispheric asymmetry
  • Visual word recognition


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