Interhemispheric interaction: how do the hemispheres divide and conquer a task?
The present studies investigated how dividing processing between the hemispheres affects task performance. In particular, they examined whether dividing processing between the hemispheres leads to a performance advantage only when task demands exceed a certain threshold. In Experiment 1 processing demands were manipulated by varying the difficulty of the decision process. In the more difficult task, subjects decided as quickly as possible whether two of three letters had the same name (e.g. A a), whereas in the less difficult task they simply decided whether two of the three were physically identical (e.g. A A). As expected, dividing processing between the hemispheres aided performance for the more difficult name-identity task whereas it actually hindered performance for easier physical-identity task. In Experiment 2, subjects made a physical-identity decision about a different stimulus, digits. The pattern of results found in Experiment 1 for the physical-identity task was replicated; interhemispheric processing hindered task performance. These results indicate that the physical characteristics of a stimulus have minimal influence on the extent to which interhemispheric processing aids task performance. In Experiment 3, subjects were required to make more difficult decisions about digits. In one task, they decided whether the sum of two of the three digits was greater than or equal to 10, and in the other they decided if the value of a particular digit was less than either of the other two. Dividing processing between the hemispheres led to faster performance for both tasks, similar to the results for the name-identity condition. In sum, these experiments suggest that when task requirements are demanding, performance is enhanced by distributing processing across the hemispheres.