Hemispheric differences in the processing of perceptual information during sentence comprehension

Project Summary

Ethics Approval Number: 2011/209

Project type: 4th Year Bachelor of Psychology / PgDip

Student Investigators: Grace Dacamara, Julianna Ong, Charmaine Low, Monaz Mistry, Nicole Rowan

Supervisor: Dr Bethanie Gouldthorp

Whilst there is substantial research into the LH role in language comprehension, current literature on the RH is somewhat limited. The purpose of this study was to investigate the hemispheric differences in processing perceptual information during sentence comprehension. Based on Yaxley and Zwaan’s (2007) findings, which concluded readers’ mentally visualise objects during sentence comprehension, the current study involved 28 right-handed adult participants completing a computer-based sentence and picture decision task. A descriptive sentence stating the protagonist’s ability to view an object of a specific resolution was centrally displayed on a screen, with a picture of either high or low resolution presented immediately after to either the left or right visual field. The picture targets were either related or unrelated to the object stated in the preceding sentence, with the pictures clarity either matching the resolution stated in the preceding sentence or the sentence-picture target being mismatched in clarity. The study required participants to make a decision on the relatedness of the picture to the preceding sentence using a go/no-go procedure with reaction times and error rates recorded. The results of the study indicated no significant differences in the processing of perceptual information between the two hemispheres, which is inconsistent with previous literature and did not support the hypotheses. It was proposed that methodological limitations possible contributed to these findings. These results demonstrate the need for further investigation into hemispheric processes, specifically the RH role in incorporating linguistic information and perceptual processes.