Date of Award
Psychology, Ambiguous, Language processing, Puns, Right Hemisphere Hypothesis, Word resolution
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Right frontal hemispheric stroke causes cognitive difficulties that include loss of appreciation of verbal humour (Shammi & Stuss, 1999). Although nonverbal creativity and working memory have been linked to this impairment, a deficit in the coordination and comprehension of ambiguous verbal material is likely to playa significant role. In this way, the Right Hemisphere Hypothesis of language processing (Coltheart, 1987) might contribute a plausible explanation for deficits in humour appreciation post-stroke, which would inform models of normal language processing. Through a series of four experiments, the current study contributes knowledge regarding the hemispheric specialization of processing puns. Puns were chosen for their propensity to force dual ambiguity resolution in a humourous context. Results from a single-word lexical decision task demonstrated priming for dominant associates of ambiguous targets. A centralized lexical decision task with pun primes and dominant, subordinate, and unrelated targets showed strongest priming for dominant relatives. A divided visual field study revealed that at 500 ms ISI, both hemispheres activated, but the left activated in such a way as to suggest that its pattern was driving the results for the centralized study. In contrast to the lexical decision data that favoured the dominant targets, data from a forced-choice relatedness task showed an advantage for the subordinate associates. Results from this series of experiments provide a working model of how puns are processed in neurologically intact individuals and contribute to the body of literature supporting the Right Hemisphere Hypothesis of language processing.
McHugh, Tara S., "Support for the Right Hemisphere Hypothesis of language processing: An investigation of ambiguous word resolution in puns" (2009). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 8207.