Electrophysiological Evidence for the Left-Lateralized Effect of Language on Preattentive Categorical Perception of Color

TitleElectrophysiological Evidence for the Left-Lateralized Effect of Language on Preattentive Categorical Perception of Color
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsMo, L., Xu G., Kay P., & Tan L-H.
Other Numbers3178

Previous studies have shown that the effect of language oncategorical perception of color is stronger when stimuli arepresented in the right visual field than in the left. To examinewhether this lateralized effect occurs preattentively at an earlystage of processing, we monitored the visual mismatch negativity,which is a component of the event-related potential of the brain toan unfamiliar stimulus among a temporally presented series ofstimuli. In the oddball paradigm we used, the deviant stimuli wereunrelated to the explicit task. A significant interaction betweencolor-pair type (within-category vs. between-category) and visualfield (left vs. right) was found. The amplitude of the visual mismatchnegativity component evoked by the within-category deviant wassignificantly smaller than that evoked by the between-categorydeviant when displayed in the right visual field, but no such differencewas observed for the left visual field. This result constituteselectroencephalographic evidence that the lateralized Whorf effectper se occurs out of awareness and at an early stage of processing.


This work was partially supported by funding provided to ICSI through National Science Foundation grant BCS:0418404 (“Universals and Variations in Cross Language Color Naming”). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors or originators and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Bibliographic Notes

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 108, No. 34, pp. 14026-14030. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1111860108

Abbreviated Authors

L. Mo, G. Xu, P. Kay, and L.-H. Tane

ICSI Research Group


ICSI Publication Type

Article in conference proceedings