Letter identification processes in reading

Distractor interference reveals an automatically engaged, domain-specific mechanism

Matthew Finkbeiner*, Jorge Almeida, Alfonso Caramazza

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Citations (Scopus)


Recent neuroimaging studies have revealed that letters activate both the left and the right fusiform areas, but that only the left fusiform responds to letters more than to control stimuli (Cohen et al., 2003). Though these findings suggest that the left fusiform is specialized in its function of identifying letters, it does not rule out the possibility that the right fusiform contributes critically to letter identification processes. We used a behavioural word identification task in which we compared bilateral and unilateral displays to determine the cost of engaging the right hemisphere with a distractor stimulus. We found that while engaging the left hemisphere led to a robust interference effect, engaging the right hemisphere had no effect at all. We were able to rule out an attentional bias to the right visual field as a possible explanation of the asymmetrical interference effect. We conclude that while the right hemisphere may be able to assume letter identification processing responsibilities in some patients with brain damage, the right hemisphere does not contribute critically to abstract letter identification processes in healthy right-handed individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1083-1103
Number of pages21
JournalCognitive Neuropsychology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Letter identification processes in reading: Distractor interference reveals an automatically engaged, domain-specific mechanism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this