Hemispheric processing of mental representations during text comprehension: evidence for inhibition of inconsistent shape information.
Previous research has suggested that perceptual information about objects is activated during sentence comprehension [Zwaan, R. A., Stanfield, R. A., & Yaxley, R. H. (2002). Language comprehenders mentally represent the shapes of objects. Psychological Science, 13(2), 168-171]. The goal in the current study was to examine the role of the two hemispheres in the activation of such information. Participants read sentences that conveyed information about the shape of an object (e.g., the egg was in the pan versus the egg was in the carton) and then received a picture of the object that was either consistent or inconsistent with the shape implied by the sentence (e.g., a fried egg versus a whole egg). In Experiment 1, pictures were presented briefly in either the left-visual field or the right-visual field. Participants showed a mismatch effect, slower responses when the picture was inconsistent with the shape of the object implied by the sentence than when it was consistent, but only when the pictures appeared in the right-visual field (left hemisphere). In Experiment 2, the sentences were revised such that the shape of the object was described explicitly. Participants showed a mismatch effect in both visual fields. These findings suggest that the right hemisphere activates shape information during sentence comprehension when a shape description is explicit, whereas the left hemisphere activates such information both when the shape is described explicitly and when it is implied.