Are variations among right-handed individuals in perceptual asymmetries caused by characteristic arousal differences between hemispheres?
We propose that much of the variance among right-handed subjects in perceptual asymmetries on standard behavioral measures of laterality arises from individual differences in characteristic patterns of asymmetric hemispheric arousal. Dextrals with large right-visual-field (RVF) advantages on a tachistoscopic syllable-identification task (assumed to reflect characteristically higher left-hemisphere than right-hemisphere arousal) outperformed those having weak or no visual-field asymmetries (assumed to reflect characteristically higher right-hemisphere than left-hemisphere arousal). The two groups were equal, however, in asymmetries of error patterns that are thought to indicate linguistic or nonlinguistic encoding strategies. For both groups, relations between visual fields in the ability to discriminate the accuracy of performance followed the pattern of syllable identification itself, suggesting that linguistic and metalinguistic processes are based on the same laterally specialized functions. Subjects with strong RVF advantages had a pessimistic bias for rating performance, and those with weak or no asymmetries had an optimistic bias, particularly for the left visual field (LVF). This is concordant with evidence that the arousal level of the right hemisphere is closely related to affective mood. Finally, consistent with the arousal model, leftward asymmetries on a free-vision face-processing task became larger as RVF advantages on the syllable task diminished and as optimistic biases for the LVF, relative to the RVF, increased.