van der Ham, I.J.M. & Postma, A. Memory & Cognition (2010) 38: 582. doi:10.3758/MC.38.5.582
Many reports show that spatial relations between and within objects show differences in hemispheric lateralization. Coordinate, metric relations concerning distances are processed with a right-hemisphere advantage, whereas a left-hemisphere advantage is thought to be related to categorical, abstract relations (Kosslyn, 1987). Kemmerer and Tranel (2000) argued that the left-hemisphere advantage for categorical processing might apply only for verbal spatial categories, however, whereas a right-hemisphere advantage is related to visuospatial categories. To test this idea, we examined categorical processing for stimuli in both verbal and visuospatial formats, with a visual half-field, match-to-sample design. In Experiment 1, we manipulated the format of the second stimulus to compare response patterns for both verbal and visuospatial stimuli. In Experiment 2, we varied the expectancy of the format of the second stimulus, allowing for an assessment of strategy use. The results showed that a left-hemisphere advantage was related to verbal stimulus format only, but not in all conditions. A right-hemisphere advantage was found only with a visuospatial expectancy, visuospatial format, and brief interval. The theory we present to explain these results proposes that the lateralization related to basic categorical processing can be strongly influenced by verbal characteristics and, to some extent, by additional coordinate processing. The lateralization measured in such cases does not represent lateralization related purely to categorical processing, but to these additional effects as well. This stresses the importance of careful task and stimulus design when examining categorical processing in order to reduce the influence of those additional processes.