What do lateralized displays tell us about visual word perception? A cautionary indication from the word-letter effect.Neuropsychologia. 2004; 42(11):1504-14.N
A common assumption underlying laterality research is that visual field asymmetries in lateralized word perception indicate the hemispheric specialisation of processes generally available for the perception of words, including words viewed in a more typical setting (i.e. in the central visual field). We tested the validity of this assumption using a phenomenon (the word-letter effect) frequently reported for displays viewed in the central visual field, where letters in words are perceived more accurately than the same letters in isolation. Words and isolated letters were presented in the left visual field (LVF), right visual field (RVF) and central visual field (CVF), the Reicher-Wheeler task was used to suppress influences of guesswork, and an eye-tracker ensured central fixation. In line with previous findings, lateralized displays revealed a RVF-LVF advantage for words (but not isolated letters) and CVF displays revealed an advantage for words over isolated letters (the word-letter effect). However, RVF and LVF displays both produced an advantage for isolated letters over words (a letter-word effect), indicating that processing subserving the advantage for words when participants viewed stimuli in the central visual field was unavailable for lateralized displays. Implications of these findings for studies of lateralized word perception are discussed.