That's Just Your Point of View: How Visuospatial Biases and Functional Lateralization Influence the Way We Perceive the World

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


How can individual differences in visuospatial attention and other lateralized functions affect the perception of one’s environment? This research question was examined through the four studies which comprise this dissertation. Studies 1 and 2 examined how visuospatial biases (and other lateralized attributes) influence the perception of paintings, Study 3 examined how these factors influence how paintings are created, and Study 4 examined how visuospatial biases themselves can be influenced by the perception and processing of other lateralized attributes. For all studies, biases in visuospatial attention were measured using the line bisection task. In Study 1, participants rated asymmetrical paintings on evocative impact, aesthetics, technique, novelty, and closure. These ratings were made for paintings in their original orientation, as well as in a mirror-reversed orientation. Leftward bisectors tended to give higher ratings to paintings when they were non-mirrored, whereas rightward bisectors more often gave higher ratings to paintings when they were mirrored. These results suggest that line bisection performance reflects individual differences in visuospatial attention, which in turn affects perception of asymmetrical paintings. However, because most of the attributes examined in Study 1 are typically associated with right hemisphere processing (as is visuospatial attention), individual differences in laterality underlying the processing of the attributes may have also impacted the results. Thus, in Study 2 the influence of visuospatial attention on painting perception was further explored using attributes typically associated with left hemisphere processing (logic, positive valence) and other attributes typically associated with right hemisphere processing and/or leftward asymmetries in art (negative valence, brightness), in addition to re-examining the attributes from Study 1 using a new forced-choice methodology. Results showed that leftward bisectors more often selected non-mirrored paintings as more emotionally evocative, logical, bright, and positively valenced, whereas rightward bisectors tended to select the mirrored paintings for emotional evocation and technique. The results for left bisectors suggest hemispheric processing of lateralized attributes affects painting preferences over visuospatial biases alone. Together, the results of Studies 1 and 2 also suggest that there are particular asymmetries within the paintings. As such, Study 3 examined whether the attributes from Studies 1 and 2 were arranged within the left or right halves of paintings in a manner consistent with the hemispheric asymmetries typically underlying the processing of these attributes. Results suggest that the right half of asymmetrical paintings conveyed better technique, more logic, and more negative valence, whereas the left half was brighter and more positively valenced. Finally, in order to examine the influence of attribute processing on visuospatial biases, the line bisection task itself was manipulated in Study 4, with different line types (face, word, solid), and emotional valences (positive, negative, neutral). Leftward bisections were generally observed, but line type and valence affected the strength of these biases. The extent of the bias decreased for lines embedded with faces, and increased for lines embedded with words. Overall, the studies in this dissertation showed how individual differences in visuospatial attention work with other aspects of lateralized processing in order to influence the way we perceive and process information in our environments.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Regina
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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