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Imagery and the cerebral hemispheres: A situation model analysis

Researcher Sharon Goldstone

Supervisors Dr Jeff Coney

Date: May, 2011

Aim

The aim of the present study was to investigate whether the right cerebral hemisphere (RH) plays a distinctive role in situation model construction when processing language laden with imagery. Specifically, it was hypothesised that the RH would be more strongly primed when presented with a passage that was imaginal rather than abstract. Furthermore, it was hypothesised that the left cerebral hemisphere (LH) would be more strongly primed when presented with a passagethat was abstract rather than imaginal.

Method:

Participants undertook a lexical decision task with respect to laterally-presented target words which were primed by centrally-presented passages intended to introduce a context. The target words equally consisted of words and non-words. The three variables that were manipulated includeda) passage type (abstract or imaginal), b) relatedness (the passages were related or not related to the target word) and, c) visual field of target word presentation (left or right). The dependent variables were reaction time and error rate, with reaction time being the primary experimental measure.

Results:

The central hypothesis that the RH would be more strongly primed when presented with a passage prime that was imaginal, rather than abstract, was not supported. The findings did reveal however, that the RH is capable of processing the imaginal passages, albeit it to a lesser degree than the LH. Furthermore, participants were grouped into high and low image groups depending upon their capacity to visualise imagery. The findings revealed the high image group’s results do not equate to significant hemispheric facilitation differences between the passage types. The low image group however, revealed a significant facilitation result for the LH and not the RH. This suggests there is variety in neuropsychological imagery subgroups and further investigation into these differences should be undertaken on the basis of these findings. Moreover, the results of this study highlight the clear conclusion that the LH is dominant in responding relative to the RH, when presented with passages laden with imagery.