Emotional arousal and lexical specificity modulate response times differently depending on ear of presentation in a dichotic listening task

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


We investigated possible hemispheric differences in the processing of four different lexical semantic categories: SPECIFIC (e.g. bird), GENERAL (e.g. animal), ABSTRACT (e.g. advice), and EMOTIONAL (e.g. love). These wordtypes were compared using a dichotic listening paradigm and a semantic category classification task. Response times (RTs) were measured when participants classified testwords as concrete or abstract. In line with previous findings, words were expected to be processed faster following right-ear presentation. However, lexical specificity and emotional arousal were predicted to modulate response times differently depending on the ear of presentation. For left-ear presentation, relatively faster RTs were predicted for SPECIFIC and EMOTIONAL words as opposed to GENERAL and ABSTRACT words. An interaction of ear and wordtype was found. For right-ear presentation, RTs increased as testwords’ imageability decreased along the span SPECIFIC–GENERAL–EMOTIONAL–ABSTRACT. In contrast, for left ear presentation, EMOTIONAL words were processed fastest, while SPECIFIC words gave rise to long RTs on par with those for ABSTRACT words. Thus, the prediction for EMOTIONAL words presented in the left ear was borne out, whereas the prediction for SPECIFIC words was not. This might be related to previously found differences in processing of stimuli at a global or local level.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics


  • emotional words, right hemisphere, imageability, semantic representation, concrete words, abstract words, neural correlates of language, dichotic listening, left hemisphere, lexical specificity
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-246
JournalThe Mental Lexicon
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Logopedics, Phoniatrics and Audiology (013020000), Department of Psychology (012010000), Linguistics and Phonetics (015010003)

Related projects

Frida Blomberg, Merle Horne, Mikael Roll, Pelle Söderström & Magnus Lindgren

Swedish Research Council


Project: Research

View all (2)