Abstract

Although a gradient of category membership seems to form the internal structure of semantic categories, it is unclear whether the 2 hemispheres of the brain differ in terms of this gradient. The 2 experiments reported here examined this empirical question and explored alternative theoretical interpretations. Participants viewed category names centrally and determined whether a closely related or distantly related word presented to either the left visual field/right hemisphere (LVF/RH) or the right visual field/left hemisphere (RVF/LH) was a member of the category. Distantly related words were categorized more slowly in the LVF/RH relative to the RVF/LH, with no difference for words close to the prototype. The finding resolved past mixed results showing an unambiguous typicality effect for both visual field presentations. Furthermore, we examined items near the fuzzy border that were sometimes rejected as nonmembers of the category and found both hemispheres use the same category boundary. In Experiment 2, we presented 2 target words to be categorized, with the expectation of augmenting the speed advantage for the RVF/LH if the 2 hemispheres differ structurally. Instead the results showed a weakening of the hemispheric difference, arguing against a structural in favor of a processing explanation.

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