Both sides get the point: hemispheric sensitivities to sentential constraint

Mem Cognit. 2005 Jul;33(5):871-86. doi: 10.3758/bf03193082.


Behavioral studies have consistently reported striking differences in the impact of sentence-level information on the processing of words presented in the right (RVF) versus the left (LVF) visual field, with context effects apparent only for RVF items. The consistent lack of such effects in the LVF has been taken to mean that right hemisphere language comprehension is largely insensitive to message-level meaning. We used the functional specificity afforded by event-related potential measures to assess this claim. Target words completing strongly and weakly constraining sentence contexts, in which constraint arose at the sentence level rather than from lexical associations, were presented laterally in the LVF or RVF. Increased constraint significantly reduced N400 amplitudes with presentation in both VFs, with no differences in the timing or amplitude of these effects. These results are inconsistent with the view that the VF asymmetries found in behavioral measures reflect differential hemispheric capacities at the level of semantic analysis and integration, although VF-based differences on earlier components (P2) suggest asymmetries in the impact of sentential context on perceptual aspects of word processing in the two hemispheres.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Male
  • Speech / physiology