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How brain asymmetry relates to performance – a large scale dichotic listening study.

Hirnstein, M. and Hugdahl, K. and Hausmann, M. (2014) 'How brain asymmetry relates to performance – a large scale dichotic listening study.', Frontiers in psychology., 4 . p. 997.


All major mental functions including language, spatial and emotional processing are lateralized but how strongly and to which hemisphere is subject to inter- and intraindividual variation. Relatively little, however, is known about how the degree and direction of lateralization affect how well the functions are carried out, i.e., how lateralization and task performance are related. The present study therefore examined the relationship between lateralization and performance in a dichotic listening task for which we had data available from 1839 participants. In this task, consonant-vowel syllables are presented simultaneously to the left and right ear, such that each ear receives a different syllable. When asked which of the two they heard best, participants typically report more syllables from the right ear, which is a marker of left-hemispheric speech dominance. We calculated the degree of lateralization (based on the difference between correct left and right ear reports) and correlated it with overall response accuracy (left plus right ear reports). In addition, we used reference models to control for statistical interdependency between left and right ear reports. The results revealed a u-shaped relationship between degree of lateralization and overall accuracy: the stronger the left or right ear advantage, the better the overall accuracy. This u-shaped asymmetry-performance relationship consistently emerged in males, females, right-/non-right-handers, and different age groups. Taken together, the present study demonstrates that performance on lateralized language functions depends on how strongly these functions are lateralized. The present study further stresses the importance of controlling for statistical interdependency when examining asymmetry-performance relationships in general.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Hemispheric asymmetry, Lateralization, Dichotic listening, Task-performance, Sex, Age, Handedness, Verbal abilities.
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Publisher statement:Copyright © 2014 Hirnstein, Hugdahl and Hausmann. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Date accepted:13 December 2013
Date deposited:13 November 2014
Date of first online publication:January 2014
Date first made open access:No date available

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