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Adv Cogn Psychol. 2010 Dec 15;6:103-15. doi: 10.2478/v10053-008-0080-6.

The what and why of perceptual asymmetries in the visual domain.

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Department of Psychology, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.


Perceptual asymmetry is one of the most important characteristics of our visual functioning. We carefully reviewed the scientific literature in order to examine such asymmetries, separating them into two major categories: within-visual field asymmetries and between-visual field asymmetries. We explain these asymmetries in terms of perceptual aspects or tasks, the what of the asymmetries; and in terms of underlying mechanisms, the why of the asymmetries. Tthe within-visual field asymmetries are fundamental to orientation, motion direction, and spatial frequency processing. between-visual field asymmetries have been reported for a wide range of perceptual phenomena. foveal dominance over the periphery, in particular, has been prominent for visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, and colour discrimination. Tthis also holds true for object or face recognition and reading performance. upper-lower visual field asymmetries in favour of the lower have been demonstrated for temporal and contrast sensitivities, visual acuity, spatial resolution, orientation, hue and motion processing. Iin contrast, the upper field advantages have been seen in visual search, apparent size, and object recognition tasks. left-right visual field asymmetries include the left field dominance in spatial (e.g., orientation) processing and the right field dominance in non-spatial (e.g., temporal) processing. left field is also better at low spatial frequency or global and coordinate spatial processing, whereas the right field is better at high spatial frequency or local and categorical spatial processing. All these asymmetries have inborn neural/physiological origins, the primary why, but can be also susceptible to visual experience, the critical why (promotes or blocks the asymmetries by altering neural functions).


asymmetry; between-visual field; critical why; hemispheric specialization; neural mechanisms; primary why; visual experience; visual perception; within-visual field

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