Two memory search experiments were conducted using vertically oriented four-letter names and human faces as stimuli. Subjects were required to indicate as quickly and as accurately as possible whether or not a single probe stimulus (presented for 150 msec to either the left or right visual field) was contained in a set of 2, 3, 4, or 5 items being held in short-term memory. The probe stimuli were presented alone (clear condition) or centrally embedded in a matrix of dots (degraded condition). In Experiment 1 (involving names), a right visual field/left hemisphere advantage was obtained and pinpointed at the encoding stage rather than at the memory comparison stage of the information-processing system. For Experiment 2 (involving human faces), no hemispheric advantage was readily observed. In each experiment, both the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere employed an abstract memory comparison operation from which the effects of probe degradation have been removed. These results are discussed in terms of their implications for various models of hemispheric asymmetry.