Semantic and associative priming in the cerebral hemispheres: some words do, some words don't ... sometimes, some places.Brain Lang. 1990 Jan; 38(1):75-104.BL
This study investigated spreading activation for words presented to the left and right hemispheres using an automatic semantic priming paradigm. Three types of semantic relations were used: similar-only (Deer-Pony), associated-only (Bee-Honey), and similar + associated (Doctor-Nurse). Priming of lexical decisions was symmetrical over visual fields for all semantic relations when prime words were centrally presented. However, when primes and targets were lateralized to the same visual field, similar-only priming was greater in the LVF than in the RVF, no priming was obtained for associated-only words, and priming was equivalent over visual fields for similar + associated words. Similar results were found using a naming task. These findings suggest that it is important to lateralize both prime and target information to assess hemisphere-specific spreading activation processes. Further, while spreading activation occurs in either hemisphere for the most highly related words (those related by category membership and association), our findings suggest that automatic access to semantic category relatedness occurs primarily in the right cerebral hemisphere. These results imply a unique role for the right hemisphere in the processing of word meanings. We relate our results to our previous proposal (Burgess & Simpson, 1988a; Chiarello, 1988c) that there is rapid selection of one meaning and suppression of other candidates in the left hemisphere, while activation spreads more diffusely in the right hemisphere. We also outline a new proposal that activation spreads in a different manner for associated words than for words related by semantic similarity.