Interhemispheric communication via direct connections for alternative meanings of ambiguous words.Brain Lang. 2002 Jan; 80(1):77-96.BL
A priming experiment was used to investigate Burgess and Simpson's (1988) claim that interhemispheric cooperation plays an essential role in the interpretation of ambiguous text. In doing so, the merits of two models of interhemispheric cooperation, the homotopic inhibition theory (Cook, 1986) and the direct connections model (Collins & Coney, 1998), were examined. Priming of alternative meanings of ambiguous words was measured using homographs and their dominant (e.g., BARK-DOG) and subordinate meanings (e.g., BARK-TREE) as related pairs in a lexical decision task, with normal university students as subjects. Stimulus pairs were temporally separated by stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) of 180 and 350 ms and were independently projected to the left or right visual fields (LVF or RVF). At the shorter SOA, priming was restricted to LVF-RVF presentations, with homograph primes directed to the LVF equally facilitating responses to RVF targets which were associated with their dominant and subordinate meanings. This suggests that within 180 ms, a homograph projected to the right hemisphere activates a range of alternative meanings in the left hemisphere. At an SOA of 350 ms, LVF-RVF priming was obtained along with RVF-LVF and RVF-RVF priming. Evidently at this stage of processing, an ambiguous word directed to either hemisphere activates a range of alternative meanings in the contralateral hemisphere, while RVF primes also activate subordinate, but not dominant meanings in the left hemisphere. A homograph directed to the LVF did not activate dominant or subordinate meanings within the right hemisphere at either SOA. Generally, ambiguous words directed to either hemisphere activated a more extensive array of meanings in the contralateral hemisphere than in the hemisphere to which the prime was directed. This confirms the importance of interhemispheric cooperation in generating alternate meanings of ambiguous words. Strong support was found for the direct connections model (Collins & Coney, 1998), but no support for the homotopic inhibition theory (Cook, 1986).