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Behav Neurosci. 2010 Aug;124(4):437-45. doi: 10.1037/a0019925.

On the relationship between lateralized brain function and orienting asymmetries.

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Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, England.

Erratum in

  • Behav Neurosci. 2011 Feb;125(1):36.


Hemispheric specializations for language perception constitute one of the classic topic in cognitive neuroscience. Evidence has accumulated to suggest that lateralized acoustic processing is not restricted to humans but is also found in numerous animal species. One of the methods used to track such lateralization is the orienting-asymmetry paradigm, a simple, noninvasive means to study lateralization that has been applied to a range of different species ranging from harpy eagles to humans. Here we summarize and compare the results of studies employing the orienting-asymmetry paradigm, showing that these studies yield largely inconsistent results. We critically discuss the methodology's implicit assumptions and conclude that the empirical inconsistencies produced by the orienting-asymmetry paradigm, and the lack of sufficient evidence supporting the paradigm's underlying assumptions, warrant serious caution when interpreting results obtained by the method. Nontrivial interpretations of orienting-asymmetry results will require a much better understanding of how lateralized brain functions interact with overt behaviors.

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