Left hemisphere processing is typically characterized as analytic and serial whereas the right hemisphere is characterized as wholistic and parallel. Word recognition may be an exception to this dichotomy if the letter-by-letter alexia produced by left hemisphere damage reflects the reading abilities of the right hemisphere. We investigated this possibility by studying prelexical and lexical processes in the separated hemispheres of callosotomy patient J. W. A word superiority effect demonstrated in each visual field suggests that both hemispheres have access to a visual lexicon. Error patterns, letter recognition thresholds, and lexical decision performance as a function of word length suggest that the left hemisphere tends to utilize a parallel access mode, whereas the right hemisphere mode is less efficient and may be serial. Furthermore, only J. W.'s left hemisphere showed letter priming, an outcome consistent with observations in letter-by-letter alexia. These findings suggest that the right hemisphere may have an independent visual lexicon and may provide an alternative although less efficient route to reading. We suggest that a serial encoding strategy results because the global processing mode for which the right hemisphere is specialized is largely ineffective for word reading.

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