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Poster B37, Wednesday, November 8, 3:00 – 4:15 pm, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Hemispheric Processing of Iconic and Arbitrary Words: A Line Bisection Study

Vijayachandra Ramachandra1, Rachel Panick1, Cara Maher1, Gabriella Trezza1, Brittney Coan1;1Marywood University

Words in a language are generally considered arbitrary. A number of languages (such as Japanese, Korean, sub-Saharan African languages, etc.) and number of words in English, however, are non-arbitrary (or iconic) (Perniss et al., 2010). For example, English words such as gleam, glitter, and glow (all with a prefix ‘gl’) refer to ‘light’. It is well established that the left hemisphere is dominant for processing words but a recent neuroimaging investigation in Japanese showed that unlike arbitrary words which are processed in the left hemisphere, iconic words show high levels of activation in the right hemisphere, which is generally involved in processing non-verbal sounds (Kanero et al., 2014). In the current study, we wanted to investigate hemispheric processing of arbitrary and iconic words in English using a simple line bisection test. 20 healthy young right-handed adults (10 men and 10 women) between 18 and 25 years who did not have any sensory or neurological issues were asked to bisect 46 horizontal straight lines (21 cm long X 2 mm wide placed at the center of an A4 size white paper), at what they gauged as their mid points. We placed either arbitrary (e.g. girl, room, etc.) or iconic (e.g. bam, ouch, etc.) words at both ends of some of the lines. They were compared with bisections for horizontal lines with neutral stimuli at the ends (i.e., XXX marked at the ends). When young typical adults bisect a line, they usually show a more left-side deviation from the midline (pseudoneglect). A right hemisphere lateralization for iconic words would lead to a more left bias and a left hemisphere lateralization for arbitrary words would lead to a less left-side bias (this is because of greater processing in the hemisphere contralateral to the side of spatial bias). Along these lines, we expected to see a more left-side bias for iconic words and a less left bias for arbitrary words when compared to the bisections for neutral stimuli. We also expected to see more left deviations for lines with iconic words when compared to lines with arbitrary words. As expected, we observed the pseudoneglect phenomenon in our participants while bisecting lines with neutral stimuli at the ends (M= -0.276, SD=0.446). Contrary to what we expected, a less leftward deviation when compared to lines with neutral stimuli was seen for both iconic and arbitrary words (M for iconic = -0.133, SD= 0.421, t=2.88 (318), p=0.004; M for arbitrary= -0.128, SD=0.463, t=2.80 (318), p=0.005). This less left bias can be attributed to increased left hemisphere activation for words. Moreover, the presence of iconic words did not lead to a more left side deviation when compared to arbitrary words (t=0.102, p=0.919) showing the importance of the left-hemisphere in semantic processing of words irrespective of the type. Comparison of these results with the recent neuroimaging study in Japanese and future directions will also be discussed.

Topic Area: Meaning: Lexical Semantics

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