Laterality differences in memory and attention

  • Kevin M. Hogan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


A critical review of the auditory selective attention literature is presented, particular reference is made to methodological issues arising from the asymmetrical hemispheric representation of language in the context of the dominant research technique dichotic shadowing. Subsequently the concept of cerebral localization is introduced, and the experimental literature with reference to models of laterality effects in speech and audition discussed. The review indicated the importance of hemispheric asymmetries insofar as they might influence the results of dichotic shadowing tasks. It is suggested that there is a potential overlap between models of selective attention and hemispheric differences.
In Experiment I, ~ a key experiment in auditory selective attention is replicated and by exercising control over possible laterality effects some of the conflicting results of earlier studies were reconciled. The three subsequent experiments,
II, III and IV, are concerned with the recall of verbally shadowed inputs. A highly significant and consistent effect of ear of arrival upon the serial position of items recalled is reported.
Experiment V is directed towards an analysis of the effect that the processing of unattended inputs has upon the serial position of attended items that are recalled. A significant effect of the type of unattended material upon the recall of attended items was found to be influenced by the ear of arrival of inputs. In Experiment VI, differences between the two ears as attended and unattended input channels were clarified.
Two main conclusions were drawn from this work. First, that the dichotic shadowing technique cannot control attention. Instead the task aprocessing both channels of dichotic inputs is unevenly shared bet\'reen the hemispheres as a function of the ear shadowed. Consequently, evidence for the processing of unattended information is considered in terms of constraints imposed by asymmetries in the functional organization of language, not in terms of a limited processing capacity model. The second conclusion to be drawn is that
laterality differences can be effectively examined using the dichotic shadowing technique, a new model of laterality differences is proposed and discussed.
Date of Award1981
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorD. Roy Davies (Supervisor)


  • laterality
  • memory
  • selective attention
  • dichotic listening

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