Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

The Bilateral Field Advantage in a Sequential Face-Name Matching Task with Famous and Nonfamous Faces

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

The Bilateral Field Advantage in a Sequential Face-Name Matching Task with Famous and Nonfamous Faces

Article excerpt

The authors examined the bilateral field advantage (BFA) using a sequential name-face (Experiment 1) or face-name (Experiment 2) matching task with both famous and nonfamous stimuli. In both experiments, the first stimulus (name in Experiment 1, face in experiment 2) was followed by a delay of 1,500 ms. The second stimulus (face in Experiment 1, name in Experiment 2) was then presented during a speeded response interval. Experiment 1 indicated a BFA for famous faces, but not for recently familiarized nonfamous faces. Experiment 2 indicated a BFA for names regardless of familiarity level. These results are compatible with prior findings of a BFA for meaningful stimuli as opposed to nonmeaningful ones, but only if previously unknown personal names are considered meaningful while previously unknown faces are not. These findings suggest that personal names are processed by bilateral neural networks whether they are previously known or not, whereas this is not the case for faces. Our findings have additional implications for working memory-based theories of why the BFA arises, and for the time course of meaningful association formation.

Keywords: interhemispheric interaction, familiarity, transcortical cell assembly, face perception, working memory

Humans are faster at processing stimuli when they are presented to either side of the visual midline instead of to one side only, an effect referred to as the bilateral field advantage (BFA; e.g., Miller, 1982; Miniussi, Girelli, & Marzi, 1998). The BFA is thought to arise because bilateral visual field presentations provide information to both cerebral hemispheres, whereas unilateral presentations initially provide information to only one; information must then be transmitted via intercortical connections to the other hemisphere, which in some way leads to a performance deficit (Boles, 1990; Mohr, Landgrebe, & Schweinberger, 2002; Zaidel & Rayman, 1994). The BFA has been demonstrated using a variety of tasks (see Mohr et al., 2002, for a discussion), but the effect has primarily been explored using simple stimuli such as letters, geometrical patterns, and colours (e.g., Dimond & Beaumont, 1972; Miniussi et al., 1998; Roser & Corballis, 2003). Recently, there has been an interest in examining the effect using more complex and meaningful stimuli, such as objects (Koivisto, 2000; Reinholz & Pollmann, 2007) and faces (Mohr et al., 2002; Tamietto, Adenzato, Geminiani, & de Gelder, 2007). A consistent finding in this recent literature is that the BFA is greater for meaningful stimuli than for nonmeaningful ones. For instance, Mohr and colleagues (Mohr et al.. 2002; Schweinberger, Landgrebe, Mohr, & Kaufmann, 2003) showed a BFA for known faces but not unknown ones. Similarly, Mohr and colleagues (Mohr, Endrass, Hauka, & Pulvermüller, 2007; Schweingerber et al., 2003) found a BFA for meaningful words, but not for meaningless pseudowords.

One explanation for these results involves the cell assembly model (CAM), proposed by Pulvermtiller and Mohr (1996). This model suggests that complex meaningful stimuli are represented in transcortical cell assemblies. These are large Hebbian cell assemblies (Hebb, 1949) that span the two cerebral hemispheres. They are thought to comprise strongly interconnected neurons in disparate areas of the brain, thus allowing for interactions between a broad range of information types and processing modalities. This rich set of interconnections is what allows meaningful concepts to be associated with a wide variety of information. In the CAM, it is hypothesised that presenting stimuli to both visual fields produces better and faster processing of meaningful images because it provides immediate input to both cerebral hemispheres, which results in spatial summation of excitatory signals to the neurons in the transcortical cell assemblies that represents meaningful stimuli. Nonmeaningful stimuli, on the other hand, are not represented by transcortical cell assemblies according to the CAM. …

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