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Directional Bias in the Mental Representation of Spatial Events Nature or Culture?

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Abstract

Previous research has shown a tendency for people to imagine simple sentences as evolving from left to right, with the sentence subject being located to the left of the object. In two cross-cultural studies comparing Italian and Arab participants, we investigated whether this bias is a function of hemispheric specialization or of directionality of written language (left to right in Italian, right to left in Arabic). Both studies found a reversal of directional bias in Arabs. Italians tended to position the subject to the left of the object, and Arabs tended to position the subject to the right of the object (Experiment 1); both groups were facilitated in a sentence-picture matching task when the subject was drawn in the position that it would usually occupy in the written language (left for Italians, right for Arabs; Experiment 2). In Experiment 2, an additional, language-independent facilitation was observed when action evolved from left to right, suggesting that both hemispheric specialization and scanning habit affect visual imaging.

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... Exposure to language and linguistic structure, both written and spoken, modulates cognitive functions that have hitherto been considered non-linguistic (Athanasopoulos et al. 2015;Boiteau and Almor 2017;Chatterjee et al. 1999;Coventry et al. 2014;Dobel et al. 2007;Fuhrman and Boroditsky 2010;Gudde et al. 2016;Hendricks and Boroditsky 2017;Kranjec et al. 2010;Levinson 2003;Maass and Russo 2003;Román et al. 2013;Stroustrup and Wallentin 2018;Tylén et al. 2010;Winawer et al. 2007). ...
... Participants were faster at picture-sentence matching if images have left-to-right implied motion and if the agent was depicted on the left. This bias has since been interpreted to be related to reading direction (Boiteau and Almor 2017;Dobel et al. 2007;Fuhrman and Boroditsky 2010;Maass and Russo 2003;Maass et al. 2014;Román et al. 2013). A simple way to study this influence on imagery is to ask participants to make drawings of linguistic content (Dobel et al. 2007;Maass and Russo 2003;Stroustrup and Wallentin 2018). ...
... This bias has since been interpreted to be related to reading direction (Boiteau and Almor 2017;Dobel et al. 2007;Fuhrman and Boroditsky 2010;Maass and Russo 2003;Maass et al. 2014;Román et al. 2013). A simple way to study this influence on imagery is to ask participants to make drawings of linguistic content (Dobel et al. 2007;Maass and Russo 2003;Stroustrup and Wallentin 2018). With this method, it has been found that people from cultures with left-to-right reading direction consistently depict the first named item and the agent of the sentence to the left in the drawing (Dobel et al. 2007;Maass and Russo 2003;Anne Maass et al. 2014;Stroustrup and Wallentin 2018). ...
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We investigated biases in the organization of imagery by asking participants to make stick-figure drawings of sentences containing a man, a woman and a transitive action (e.g. she kisses that guy). Previous findings show that prominent features of meaning and sentence structure are placed to the left in drawings, according to reading direction (e.g. Stroustrup and Wallentin in Lang Cogn 10(2):193–207, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1017/langcog.2017.19). Five hundred thirty participants listened to sentences in Danish and made eight drawings each. We replicated three findings: (1) that the first mentioned element is placed to the left more often, (2) that the agent in the sentence is placed to the left, and (3) that the grammatical subject is placed to the left of the object. We further tested hypotheses related to deixis and gender stereotypes. By adding demonstratives (e.g. Danish equivalents of this and that), that have been found to indicate attentional prominence, we tested the hypothesis that this is also translated into a left-ward bias in the produced drawings. We were unable to find support for this hypothesis. Analyses of gender biases tested the presence of a gender identification and a gender stereotype effect. According to the identification hypothesis, participants should attribute prominence to their own gender and draw it to the left, and according to the stereotype effect participants should be more prone to draw the male character to the left, regardless of own gender. We were not able to find significant support for either of the two gender effects. The combination of replications and null-findings suggest that the left-ward bias in the drawing experiment might be narrowly tied to left-to-right distribution in written language and less to overall prominence. No effect of handedness was observed.
... Au-delà de sa direction, l'amplitude du biais spatial est également soumise à des différences culturelles: le biais gauche-droite observé chez les personnes exposées à des langues transcrites de gauche à droite est plus important que le biais droite-gauche observé chez les personnes exposées à des langues transcrites de droite à gauche (Fischer et al., 2010;Maass & Russo, 2003). Selon Maass et Russo (2003), ce résultat reflèterait une interaction entre les facteurs culturels, incitant à une directionnalité alignée sur la direction de l'écriture et un facteur biologique en faveur d'un biais gauche-droite. ...
... Au-delà de sa direction, l'amplitude du biais spatial est également soumise à des différences culturelles: le biais gauche-droite observé chez les personnes exposées à des langues transcrites de gauche à droite est plus important que le biais droite-gauche observé chez les personnes exposées à des langues transcrites de droite à gauche (Fischer et al., 2010;Maass & Russo, 2003). Selon Maass et Russo (2003), ce résultat reflèterait une interaction entre les facteurs culturels, incitant à une directionnalité alignée sur la direction de l'écriture et un facteur biologique en faveur d'un biais gauche-droite. Ainsi, le biais spatial observé est de plus large amplitude lorsque les facteurs biologiques et culturels sont congruents (i.e., langues transcrites de gauche à droite) que lorsqu'ils sont incongruents (i.e., langues transcrites de gauche à droite). ...
... Les différences d'amplitude peuvent être également expliquées en référence à l'influence contraire d'une deuxième langue, fréquemment pratiquée par les participants dont la langue maternelle est transcrite de droite à gauche. Comme souligné par Maass et Russo (2003), les comparaisons inter-culturelles permettent difficilement d'isoler l'influence du facteur culturel sur les comportements dans un contexte politique et économique mondial de globalisation qui tend à réduire les variabilités culturelles. En revanche, les études développementales s'avèrent particulièrement adaptées pour répondre à cette question. ...
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La directionnalité est une composante perceptivo-motrice et culturellement déterminée qui intervient de façon prééminente dans l’acquisition initiale de l’écriture. Cette thèse visait à apporter des données empiriques et des éclairages théoriques nouveaux sur 1) son évolution au cours du développement et, 2) sa contribution à la production et à la reconnaissance des formes de lettres. Ces deux axes de recherche ont été déclinés en cinq études. Une première étude investiguait le poids de l’influence culturelle sur la directionnalité graphique au long du développement. Elle permettait de comparer les performances de tracé chez des enfants âgés de 5 à 9 ans dans des conditions où des contraintes biomécaniques, syntaxiques et sémantiques variaient. Les résultats faisaient apparaître un renforcement de l’influence culturelle sur la directionnalité graphique à partir de 6 ans. Cependant, les enfants les plus âgés (9 ans) se montraient capables d’adopter des procédures plus flexibles et de se désengager de contraintes culturelles afin de satisfaire des contraintes contextuelles. La deuxième étude examinait l’évolution développementale de la directionnalité de l’écrit chez des enfants âgés de 4 à 11 ans en comparant la production de formes communes à l’écriture et au dessin. Les résultats obtenus mettaient en évidence une acquisition synchrone des invariants universels (i.e., l’écriture est uni-directionnelle) et des spécificités culturelles du système d’écriture (i.e., la langue est transcrite de gauche à droite). Dans le deuxième axe de recherche, deux études avaient pour objectif de mettre à l’épreuve des faits des hypothèses explicatives récentes de l’écriture en miroir dans l’acquisition initiale et typique de l’écrit. La comparaison de productions en temps réel et appariées d’écritures en miroir et d’écritures conventionnelles chez des enfants pré-lettrés révélait une implication majeure de la directionnalité de l’écrit et une invariance cinématique. Enfin, la dernière étude a permis de mettre en évidence, à l’aide d’un paradigme d’entrainement, une contribution de la directionnalité de l’écriture au rappel de l’orientation de lettres a été mise en évidence chez des enfants pré-lettrés. Les résultats obtenus sont discutés dans une approche incarnée de la cognition et des pistes pédagogiques sont amorcées.
... For instance, when participants listened to simple transitive sentences like "The circle hits the square" and then subsequently had to draw the event, they located agents to the left of the patient rather than to the right (Chatterjee et al., 1999). A similar left-to-right preference was observed for speakers of Italian (e.g., Maass and Russo, 2003), as well as German speakers (Dobel et al., 2007). Despite these visual preferences for referents in transitive events, the effect of visual positioning has so far evaded the focus of language production studies. ...
... The positioning of elements in scenes has not yet been investigated in speech-production tasks. Generalizing the leftagent preference reported for language comprehension tasks to language production (e.g., Maass and Russo, 2003), we would expect patients positioned to the left of agents to elicit longer speech onset times, more passive voice utterances, as well as earlier and longer looks to them compared to patients positioned to the right of agents. ...
... Although it has often been observed that the position of referents is affected during sentence comprehension (e.g., Maass and Russo, 2003;Dobel et al., 2007), so far no study has looked at this effect in language production. However, our results show that the positioning of patients in space had a pervasive influence on participants' behavior affecting early and later eye movements, as well as the initiation of utterances and voice selection. ...
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How can a visual environment shape our utterances? A variety of visual and conceptual factors appear to affect sentence production, such as the visual cueing of patients or agents, their position relative to one another, and their animacy. These factors have previously been studied in isolation, leaving the question about their interplay open. The present study brings them together to examine systematic variations in eye movements, speech initiation and voice selection in descriptions of visual scenes. Forty-four native speakers of German were asked to describe depicted event scenes presented on a computer screen, while both their utterances and eye movements were recorded. Participants were instructed to produce one-sentence descriptions. The pictures depicted scenes with animate agents and either animate or inanimate patients who were situated to the right or to the left of agents. Half of the patients were preceded by a visual cue – a small circle appearing for 60 milliseconds on a blank screen in the place of patients. The results show that scenes with left- rather than right-positioned patients lead to longer speech onset times, a higher probability of passive sentences and looks toward the patient. In addition, scenes with animate patients received more looks and elicited more passive utterances than scenes with inanimate patients. Visual cueing did not produce significant changes in speech, even though there were more looks to cued vs. non-cued referents, demonstrating that cueing only impacted initial scene scanning patterns but not speech. Our findings demonstrate that when examined together rather than separately, visual and conceptual factors of event scenes influence different aspects of behavior. In comparison to cueing that only affected eye movements, patient animacy also acted on the syntactic realization of utterances, whereas patient position in addition altered their onset. In terms of time course, visual influences are rather short-lived, while conceptual factors have long-lasting effects.
... These findings lend further support to the idea that participants preferably encode transitive events from left to right. While Chatterjee et al. (1999) assume that the left-to-right bias in visual event representations may be due to universal factors like hemispheric asymmetries in brain organization, other findings have challenged this assumption by stressing the impact of cultural factors related to reading and/or writing direction (e.g., Dobel et al. 2007bDobel et al. , 2014Maass & Russo 2003;Maass et al. 2014;Butler et al. 2014). ...
... If this is the case, we should observe an opposite pattern of preferences (i.e., agent-right) in a language with a right-to-left writing system, such as Modern Standard Arabic, compared to a language with a left-to-right writing system, such as German. Unlike previous studies that encouraged participants to spatialize transitive events (e.g. by means of drawing, Dobel et al. 2014;Maass and Russo 2003), we were interested in whether cross-cultural differences in event representation also surfaced in a non-verbal aesthetic judgment task. ...
... Experiment 3 investigated whether the left-agent preference expressed in both linguistic (Experiment 1) and non-linguistic (Experiment 2) tasks in German may be specific for languages with left-to-right writing systems. This experiment aimed to reveal whether preferences for the visuo-spatial position of referents may be shaped by cultural habits related to the reading and writing direction employed in a particular language (as previously suggested by Dobel et al. 2014, Maass andRusso 2003). Therefore, we tested individuals literate in Modern Standard Arabic, which employs a right-to-left direction in its script. ...
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How does non-linguistic, visual experience affect language production? A series of experiments addressed this question by examining linguistic and visual preferences for agent positions in transitive action scenarios. In Experiment 1, 30 native German speakers described event scenes where agents were positioned either to the right or to the left of patients. Produced utterances had longer speech onset times for scenes with right- rather than left-positioned agents, suggesting that the visual organization of events can affect sentence production. In Experiment 2 another cohort of 36 native German participants indicated their aesthetic preference for left- or right-positioned agents in mirrored scenes and displayed a preference for scenes with left-positioned agents. In Experiment 3, 37 Arabic native participants performed the same non-verbal task showing the reverse preference. Our findings demonstrate that non-linguistic visual preferences seem to affect sentence production, which in turn may rely on the writing system of a specific language.
... . Similar to other asymmetries, this visual imaging of social interactions has an opposite spatial organization among speakers of RL languages (Maass et al., 2007;Maass & Russo, 2003). ...
... This trilingual study was designed to untangle the role of two processes hypothesized to jointly produce asymmetrical representations of human interactions, namely, an embodied process reflecting the habitual writing/reading direction, and a syntactic regularity, namely, the order in which sentence subject and object are mentioned in a given language. The argument here is that script direction alone is insufficient to explain why people place the agent to the left of the in LR-writing cultures (Chatterjee et al., 1999) but to the right in RL-writing cultures (Maass & Russo, 2003) and that a second assumption is needed, namely, that the agent be mentioned before the recipient. ...
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In Western cultures, human interactions are generally envisaged such that the agent appears on the left, the recipient on the right, with action flowing from left to right. Here we explore the joint influence of 2 mechanisms driving such spatial asymmetries: the embodiment of script direction and the order in which subject and object are mentioned. A comparison of 3 language communities (Italian, Malagasy, Arabic) differing in script direction (left-right for Italian and Malagasy and right-left for Arabic) and in subject-object order (subject-verb-object in Italian and Arabic and verb-object-subject in Malagasy) provides evidence for the assumption that both mechanisms contribute to the spatial asymmetry.
... horizontal-attention-original-research/. See also Maass and Russo (2003) and reference therein. ...
... We assume that consideration probabilities on the direction of sight (i.e., left, right, or tablet) vary with the number of peers that look in the 13 See, for example, https://www.nngroup.com/articles/horizontal-attention-original-research/. 14 See also Maass and Russo (2003) and reference therein. 15 See, for example, Gallup et al. (2012) and https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/ what-are-you-looking-at-people-follow-each-others-gazes-but-without-a-tipping-point#close.21. ...
... In this same study, the authors showed that participants responded faster to images that showed the agent of an action on the left side of the screen. Later, Maass and Russo (2003) extended these motion and agent-side findings to show that Arabic speakers, who also read and write right to left, show an advantage to responding to right-side agents, but that both speakers of left-to-right and right-to-left languages make faster responses toward images that depict left-to-right motion-indicating that native language script direction aside, left-to-right motion is easier to process. Altmann, Saleem, Kendall, Heilman, and Gonzalez Rothi (2006), using a scene drawing task, were unable to replicate the previous findings, instead showing that English and Arabic speakers drew agents on the right side of their drawings. ...
... The rightward bias observed here does fit in with the studies we reviewed in the introduction that look at aesthetic preferences of scenes (Beaumont, 1985;Christman & Pinger, 1997;Mead & McLaughlin, 1992) and scene recognition and production (Chatterjee, 2001;Chatterjee et al., 1999;Maass & Russo, 2003), suggesting that the San were probably attempting to convey motion or were capturing imagined (or hallucinated) motion. The direction of said motion may have been a byproduct of cerebral lateralization, and more specifically, the dual advantage of the right hemisphere in both processing scenes and in processing the left half of the visual field. ...
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In this study, we coded art painted on rocks located in southern Africa, which was painted with a mixture of ochre, blood, and clay by the San, a Neolithic culture with no written language. These images depict a mixture of humans and animals in a variety of contexts, including (but not limited to) hunts and dances. We calculated a laterality index for the collected available art from each region, finding that although there was variability across regions in the direction of the laterality scores, most regions contained a majority of figures facing rightward. This is in stark contrast with reports of artists drawing leftward facing animals and human profiles (an effect that is influenced by native language writing system direction, gender, and handedness), but interestingly our sample also contained regions with strong leftward biases. Our results are, however, in accord with studies that report people preferring images that depict left-to-right motion, as well as the left-to-right bias in depicting transitive actions, an effect that seems to result from greater right hemispheric activation in scene processing and interpretation. Thus, this study shows that in the absence of a writing system, right-lateralized neural architecture may guide the hands of artists.
... Consequently, mental representations of human action are envisaged along a trajectory that correlates with the reading and writing direction along with the syntactical structure of the language one is socialized in. Thus, action progresses from left-to-right in languages such as English and French and right-to-left in languages such as Arabic and Hebrew, and the agent of the action typically occupies the left or right position, respectively, in spatial representations (Maass and Russo, 2003;Stroustrup and Wallentin, 2018;Wallentin et al., 2019). ...
... The opposite preferential representation of agency (i.e., evolving from right-to-left) has been largely reported in leftward flowing languages in distinct attentional and cognitive processes. For instance, line bisection (Chokron and Imbert, 1993), directionality in drawing side view objects (Kebbe and Vinter, 2012), time and number line representation (Dehaene et al., 1993;Ouellet et al., 2010), thematic role drawing tasks (Maass and Russo, 2003), are all heterogeneous but converging examples of how leftward speaking populations preferentially conceived movement as unfolding from rightto-left. However, most reported reversals are considerably weaker in cultures where writing is leftward (Román et al., 2013), likely due to their frequent exposure to westernized spatial layouts whereas exposure to leftward cultures in the West is less frequent. ...
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We examined whether reading and writing habits known to drive agency perception also shape the attribution of other agency-related traits, particularly for faces oriented congruently with script direction (i.e., left-to-right). Participants rated front-oriented, left-oriented and right-oriented faces on 14 dimensions. These ratings were first reduced to two dimensions, which were further confirmed with a new sample: power and social-warmth. Both dimensions were systematically affected by head orientation. Right-oriented faces generated a stronger endorsement of the power dimension (e.g., agency, dominance), and, to a lesser extent, of the social-warmth dimension, relative to the left and frontal-oriented faces. A further interaction between the head orientation of the faces and their gender revealed that front-facing females, relative to front-facing males, were attributed higher social-warmth scores, or communal traits (e.g., valence, warmth). These results carry implications for the representation of people in space particularly in marketing and political contexts. Face stimuli and respective norming data are available at www.osf.io/v5jpd.
... Supporting the assumptions of the culture specificity of the SAB, comparisons between cultures with left-to-right and right-to-left script directions found reversals in the directionality of the SAB (Maass et al., 2007;Maass & Russo, 2003;Dobel, Diesendruck, & Bölte, 2007). For instance, the participants were asked to draw "the exchange of a gift between two people" or "an act of aggression between two people. ...
... Italian participants (reading from left to right) tended to draw the agent on the left-hand side and Iraqi participants (reading from right to left) on the right-hand side. Further supporting this notion, people who are exposed to cultures with different script directions show a reduced SAB (Maas et al., 2014, Maass & Russo, 2003. ...
Article
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The mental imagination of (social) actions has been shown to follow a left‐to‐right trajectory, with the thematic agent associated with the left position (Spatial Agency Bias, Suitner & Maass, 2016). For example, individuals asked to choose a picture that visualizes the sentence “Tom kicks George.” tend to choose an image where the agent, Tom, is positioned on the left‐hand side rather than on the right‐hand side. However, alternative to the thematic role of the agent, such findings may reflect a mental representation following pragmatic relevance. Specifically, a pragmatic perspective holds that word order and syntactic functions are strategic devices to communicate that the element is important for the sentence. Thus, positioning in the described picture‐matching task may actually reflect the agent’s pragmatic relevance instead of agency per se. For a test, we vary whether sentences are written in active versus passive voice. Results from five studies indicate that passive voice results in the tendency to place the agent on the right‐hand side rather than on the left‐hand side of a picture. Instead, the acted‐upon person is positioned on the left‐hand side of a picture. A sixth experiment reveals that for passive voice, the agent is still seen as more agentic than the receiver, but is considered less relevant. The findings are congruent with the proposed pragmatic relevance account. Implications for the Spatial Agency Bias as well as for building mental representations in general are discussed.
... The direction that the passage of time takes along the mental timeline is consistent with a language's reading direction and, therefore, differs across cultures. For example, native English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Dutch speakers, who read from left to right, tend to think of the past as being on the left and the future as being on the right; the reverse, however, is true of native Arabic and Hebrew speakers, who read from right to left (Casasanto & Boroditsky, 2008;Casasanto & Bottini, 2013;Droit-Volet & Coull, 2015;Fuhrman & Boroditsky, 2010;Ishihara, Keller, Rossetti, & Prinz, 2008;Maass & Russo, 2003;Nachshon, 1981;Ouellet, Santiago, Israeli, & Gabay, 2010;Santiago, Lupiáñez, Pérez, & Funes, 2007;Tversky et al., 1991). Furthermore, native Chinese speakers, who read from top to bottom, tend to conceptualize the past as being up and the future as being down (Bergen & Chan Lau, 2012;Boroditsky, 2001). ...
... Some argue that the common left-to-right bias may be an innate default, possibly a product of neurological constraints such as hemispheric asymmetry or pre-existing left to right attentional biases (Chatterjee, 2001;Chatterjee et al., 1999;Vicaro et al., 2007). Potentially, the innate left-to-right bias is then either supported by the direction of one's native language, in cultures with left to right reading directions, or modified by the direction of their native language, in cultures with a right-to-left or top-to-bottom reading direction (Maass & Russo, 2003). In either case, by this account, a directional mental timeline would be in place prior to gaining familiarity with one's language direction. ...
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concept of time is conceptualized as moving linearly across space, known as the mental timeline (MTL). The direction of our MTL is consistent with reading direction. English speakers, who read left to right, think of past on the left and future on the right; the reverse is true of Hebrew speakers, who read right to left. However, it is unknown whether familiarity with reading direction facilitates the development of the MTL or whether it develops prior to becoming familiar with a language’s direction. This study examined the relationship between the development of the MTL and emergent literacy skills in English-speaking preschoolers and kindergartners. Results reveal a preference for spatially displaying time as moving horizontally from left to right in preschoolers, which is strengthened in kindergartners and predicted by emergent literacy skills. Results indicate that emergent literacy skills are related to the early development of the MTL, providing insight into the origins of the mental timeline.
... This so-called Spatial Agency Bias (SAB) describes that in cultures with left-toright script direction the agent, the person acting, is more likely to be represented on the left and the person receiving the action on the right (for an overview see Suitner and Maass, 2016) 1 . In the present studies, we investigate whether all actions or only specific types of actions are associated 1 Although the representation of small numbers and agents on the left and large numbers and recipients of actions on the right may be explained neurologically (Chatterjee et al., 1999;Feigenson et al., 2004;Gevers et al., 2006) these effects have been shown to be culturally flexible and dependent on script direction (e.g., Dehaene et al., 1993;Shaki et al., 2009 for the SNARC effect: Maass and Russo, 2003 for the SAB; see also Román et al., 2015 for a more general model of script direction in the construal of mental representations). Thus, left-to right trajectory for actions that can be observed in cultures reading and writing from left to right reverses in cultures with right-to-left script direction. ...
... This results in an overgeneralized bias that actions are mentally represented spatially biased with a rightward moving trajectory. Notably, for people socialized in cultures with the reverse script direction the bias reverses (Maass and Russo, 2003;Dobel et al., 2007;Maass et al., 2007Maass et al., , 2014. For instance, Italian participants (reading from left to right) tend to draw an agent on the left-hand side of a picture and Iraqi participants (reading from right to left) on the right-hand side (Maass et al., 2014).) ...
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In cultures with left-right-script, agentic behavior is mentally represented as following a left-to-right trajectory, an effect referred to as the Spatial Agency Bias (SAB, Suitner and Maass, 2016 ). In this research, we investigated whether spatial representations of activities are universal across activities by analyzing the opposite concepts of “attack” and “defense”. Both behaviors involve similar actions (e.g., fighting) but may differ in perceived agency. Moreover “defense” is necessarily always a response to an attack and may therefore be represented by a trajectory in the opposite direction. Two studies found the classic SAB for activities representing attacking but a reduction (Study 1) and reversal (Study 2) for activities involving defense. Although the spatial representation of defense on the right was much weaker and less unequivocal than that of attack on the left, the results suggest that the spatial representations of defense and attack are located in different positions. Apparently not all actors and all activities are spatially represented on the left with a left-to-right trajectory but position and direction depend on the perceived agency. Directions for future research and applications of our findings are discussed.
... In fact, none of the English speakers and only 15% of the Chinese speakers arranged the pictures in top-to-bottom orientation; instead, they predominately arranged them from left-to-right (Chan & Bergman, 2005). Similar orthography-consistent biases have also been shown in picture sorting tasks for both Italian (left-to-right) and Arabic (right-to-left) speakers (Maass & Russo, 2003). ...
... We know from previous research that adults organize time laterally in a way that is consistent with the reading and writing direction in their native language (Chan & Bergman, 2005;Casasanto & Jasmin, 2012;Maass & Russo, 2003), suggesting exposure to readingwriting direction as an important factor in patterning metaphorical gestures about time. ...
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The metaphorical motion of time can be expressed in gesture along either a sagittal axis—with the future ahead and past behind the speaker, or a lateral axis—with the past to the left and future to the right of the speaker (Casasanto & Jasmin, 2012). Adult English speakers, when gesturing about time, show a preference for lateral gestures with left-to-right directionality, consistent with the directionality of the reading-writing system in English (Casasanto & Jasmin, 2012). In this study, we asked how early children would show a preference for left-to-right lateral gestures and whether literacy skills would predict the production of such gestures. Our findings showed developmental changes in both the orientation and directionality of children’s gestures about time. Children increased their production of left-to-right lateral gestures over time, with a shift around ages 7-to-8. More importantly, literacy predicted children’s production of such lateral gestures. Overall, these results suggest that the orientation and directionality of children’s metaphorical gestures about time follow a developmental pattern that is largely influenced by changes in literacy.
... In particular, English speakers have been found to arrange temporal sequences from left to right, whereas Hebrew and Arabic speakers have been found to arrange them right to left, consistent with reading direction in each of the language (Fuhrman & Boroditsky, 2010;Tversky et al., 1991). Similarly, English, Hebrew, and Arabic-reading participants have been found to differ with respect to their spatial representation of number (Shaki, Fischer, & Petrusic, 2009), and Italian and Arab participants to differ in how the spatial sequence of simple sentences in a sentence-picture matching task (Maass & Russo, 2003). However, the spatial mapping of abstract concepts has yet to be investigated more systematically or comprehensively across a diverse array of abstract concepts, and across the two very distinct languages, namely English and Mandarin. ...
... Across two studies we found that Mandarin speakers exhibit spatial mapping of concepts, as has been shown in other languages (Crawford et al., 2014;Dudschig et al., 2015;Fuhrman & Boroditsky, 2010;Maass & Russo, 2003;Ouellet et al., 2010;Santiago et al., 2007;Shaki et al., 2009). This extends previous research showing spatial mapping of time-based concepts in Mandarin (Boroditsky et al., 2011), revealing that this tendency occurs for a wide variety of abstract concepts. ...
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English speakers have been shown to map abstract concepts in space, which occurs on both the vertical and horizontal dimensions. For example, words such as God are associated with up and right spatial locations, and words such as Satan with down and left. If the tendency to map concepts in space is a universal property of human cognition, then it is likely that such mappings may be at least partly culturally-specific, since many concepts are themselves language-specific and therefore cultural conventions. Here we investigated whether Mandarin speakers report spatial mapping of concepts, and how these mappings compare with English speakers (i.e. are words with the same meaning associated with the same spatial locations). Across two studies, results showed that both native English and Mandarin speakers reported spatial mapping of concepts, and that the distribution of mappings was highly similar for the two groups. Theoretical implications are discussed.
... These proposals are difficult to test in industrialized groups, where any innate spatial biases may be masked by cultural conventions that cause number, time, and other domains to be spatialized in a consistent direction (e.g., reading and counting from left to right). These conventions are enough to influence mental mappings of these domains, which vary in direction with spatial practices like reading (17)(18)(19) and which can be independently changed by brief spatial training (20,21). These effects support theories of metaphorical mental representation positing that each mental mapping arises from the correlations between the relevant domains (e.g., space and number; space and time) that are found in the natural and cultural environment (21)(22)(23). ...
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In industrialized groups, adults implicitly map numbers, time, and size onto space according to cultural practices like reading and counting (e.g., from left to right). Here, we tested the mental mappings of the Tsimane’, an indigenous population with few such cultural practices. Tsimane’ adults spatially arranged number, size, and time stimuli according to their relative magnitudes but showed no directional bias for any domain on any spatial axis; different mappings went in different directions, even in the same participant. These findings challenge claims that people have an innate left-to-right mapping of numbers and that these mappings arise from a domain-general magnitude system. Rather, the direction-specific mappings found in industrialized cultures may originate from direction-agnostic mappings that reflect the correlational structure of the natural world.
... Although switching the positions of product-model images might change how consumers process the visual information as more congruent or incongruent with their level of construal, such an association does not necessarily depend on construal level theory. For instance, for people in cultures that read from right to left rather than left to right, the influence of a directionality bias may have a different effect on the result (Maass & Russo, 2003). While this question was beyond the scope of our study, it is an interesting topic for future research. ...
Article
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This article examines how the horizontal distance between two images—a product and a model—in conjunction with the focus of the ad appeal (desirability vs. feasibility) impacts the consumer’s product evaluation. The findings indicate that the desirability (feasibility) appeal leads to more favorable product evaluations when the ad presents a spatially distal (proximal) product-model distance. This outcome occurs because the correct match between the product-model distance and the ad appeal enhances processing fluency, thus leading to more positive product evaluations. The findings offer practical insights and actionable strategies to practitioners.
... The meaningful spatial context in which the information is embedded seems to be an element able to determine the elimination of reasoning preference for a specific direction. According to this interpretation, our results do not support the idea of a cultural bias affecting the L-R preference as part of the comprehension process (e.g., Maass & Russo, 2003) for the verbal description of an environment. ...
Article
The verbal descriptions of an environment elicit a spatial mental model, in which the linear disposition of the described objects might be related to the properties of the description. In particular the direction from which the environment is encoded might shape the spatial mental model, as a consequence of a cultural bias in reading and writing direction. The aim of the present study was to examine the influence of the direction in which objects are encoded on the retrieval of spatial information. In two experiments we asked participants to encode an environment through either physical exploration or verbal description, that are encoding modalities which preserve the sequential presentation of spatial information. We manipulated both the encoding and testing directions of the spatial information, and tested participants by using a two-alternative forced choice task. In both experiments, the results did not reveal any significant effect, disconfirming the idea of the left-right cultural bias for western people for this type of task. The lack of effect suggests that encoding an environment through physical movement and verbal descriptions determines the development of a mental representation which is relatively independent from encoding sequential order.
... It is worth recalling here that cultural biases in the horizontal direction of visual exploration can influence understanding of time and causal relations in linear displays: for example, observers have an easier time understanding visual scenes when they are temporally arranged in a direction that matches their reading system (i.e., with the subject on the left and the object on the right for left-to-right readers, and the other way around for right-to-left readers; Maass & Russo, 2003). The ability to understand the flow of series of pictures is thus related to literacy. ...
Article
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Visuo-spatial reasoning tests, such as Raven’s matrices, Cattell’s culture-fair test, or various subtests of the Wechsler scales, are frequently used to estimate intelligence scores in the context of inter-racial comparisons. This has led to several high-profile works claiming that certain ethnic groups have lower intelligence than others, presumably due to genetic inferiority. This logic is predicated on the assumption that such visuo-spatial tests, because they are non-verbal, must be culture-fair: that their solution process does not significantly draw on factors that vary from one culture to the next. This assumption of culture-fairness is dubious at best and has been questioned by many authors. In this article, I review the substantial body of psychological and ethnographic literature which has demonstrated that the perception, manipulation and conceptualization of visuo-spatial information differs significantly across cultures, in a way that is relevant to intelligence tests. I then outline a model of how these inter-cultural differences can affect seven major steps of the solution process for Raven’s matrices, with a brief discussion of other visuo-spatial reasoning tests. Overall, a number of cultural assumptions appear to be deeply ingrained in all visuo-spatial reasoning tests, to the extent that it disqualifies the view of such tests as intrinsically culture-fair and makes it impossible to draw clear-cut conclusions from average score differences between ethnic groups.
... Instead of showing the characteristic leftward bias of left-to-right readers, right-to-left readers demonstrate no or a slight rightward asymmetry in perceptual tasks such as line bisection (Chokron & Imbert, 1993;Rinaldi, Di Luca, Henik, & Girelli, 2014), face judgments (Vaid & Singh, 1989), and aesthetic preference judgments (Friedrich & Elias, 2016;Nachson, Argaman, & Luria, 1999). These findings have led to suggestions that participants' habitual script direction is a key factor underlying observed spatial biases (Kazandjian & Chokron, 2008;Maass & Russo, 2003; but see Nicholls & Roberts, 2002, for conflicting findings). ...
Article
An accurate perception of the space surrounding us is central for effective and safe everyday functioning. Understanding the factors influencing spatial perception is therefore vital. Here, we first confirm previous reports that our cultural reading habits shape the perception of space. Twenty-four left-to-right readers (tested in Australia) and 23 right-to-left readers (tested in Israel) over-attend to information presented on the left and right side of space, respectively. We then show that this cultural bias is highly malleable. By employing a simple mirror-reading task prior to the spatial judgments, we demonstrate that the supposed cultural bias can be easily overridden. These findings question hardwired, lateralisation models of spatial-attentional biases and highlight the need for a dynamic model that takes into account hemispheric lateralisation, cultural habits and situational context.
... Hebrew speakers draw left-to right events positioning the agent on the left about 30% less frequently than German speakers. Dobel et al. (2007) concluded that there exists a bias consistent with a reading direction and thus supported the cultural hypothesis (see also Maass and Russo, 2003). Similarly, a study by Esaulova et al. (2018) had German and Arabic speakers describe visually presented events with the agent positioned on the left or on the right. ...
Article
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Existing research shows that distribution of the speaker’s attention among event’s protagonists affects syntactic choice during sentence production. One of the debated issues concerns the extent of the attentional contribution to syntactic choice in languages that put stronger emphasis on word order arrangement rather than the choice of the overall syntactic frame. To address this, the current study used a sentence production task, in which Russian native speakers were asked to verbally describe visually perceived transitive events. Prior to describing the target event, a visual cue directed the participants’ attention to the location of either the agent or the patient of the subsequently presented visual event. In addition, we also manipulated event orientation (agent-left vs. agent-right) as another potential contributor to syntactic choice. The number of patient-initial sentences was the dependent variable compared between conditions. First, the obtained results replicated the effect of visual cueing on the word order in Russian language: more patient-initial sentences in patient cued condition. Second, we registered a novel effect of event orientation: Russian native speakers produced more patient-initial sentences after seeing events developing from right to left as opposed to left-to-right events. Our study provides new evidence about the role of the speaker’s attention and event orientation in syntactic choice in language with flexible word order.
... Some studies have shown that the direction of attentional biases can develop differently depending on these two ways of writing. 51 Further, another study has shown that the perception of time, including in which direction the past and the future move, is related to the direction in which one writes. 52 This reveals yet another subtle yet potentially decisive factor in neuropsychological performance of Arabic individuals, as multiple cognitive domains may be influenced by this directionality. ...
... In this specific case, reading direction was found to modulate the online performance from the beginning to the end of the cancellation task (Rinaldi et al., 2014). These findings add to other evidence showing that reading habits affect general aspects of cognition, such as the spatial representation of actions (Dobel, Diesendruck, & Bölte, 2007; see also Maass & Russo, 2003), as well as of temporal concepts (Ouellet, Santiago, Israeli, & Gabay, 2010;Rinaldi, Di Luca, Henik, & Girelli, 2016) and numerical concepts (Dehaene, Bossini, & Giraux, 1993). ...
Article
A tendency to over-attend the left side of the space (i.e., pseudoneglect) has been repeatedly reported in Western adult populations and is supposed to reflect a right hemisphere dominance in the control of visuospatial attention. This neurobiological hypothesis has been partially challenged by growing evidence showing that pseudoneglect is profoundly triggered by cultural practices such as reading and writing habits. Accordingly, more recent theoretical accounts suggest a strict coupling between nature and nurture dimensions at the origins of such bias. To further explore this possibility, here we first administered a digitized cancellation task to right-handed Western children before and after literacy acquisition. Results showed an incremental leftward shift of attention in the cancellation of the first target and an increasing preference for a left-to-right visual search from preschoolers to second graders. Yet, despite these differences, the overall distribution of visuospatial attention was biased to the left in both groups. To explore the role of handedness in visuospatial asymmetries, we also tested a group of left-handed second graders. Results showed an impact of handedness on visuospatial performance, with an accentuated rightward-oriented visual search for left-handed children, although the overall distribution of attention was again biased to the left hemispace. Taken together, these findings do not provide support to a pure neurobiological view of visuospatial biases. Rather, our study indicates that the control of visuospatial attention is mediated by a dynamic interplay among biological (i.e., right hemisphere dominance), biomechanical (i.e., hand dominance), and cultural (i.e., reading habits) factors.
... • Chatterjee et al. (1999) found a robust left-to-right directional bias in event representation among English users and interpreted it as an effect of structural and functional features of the left cerebral hemisphere. However, subsequent studies have shown that this bias is more characteristic of left-to-right (LR) than right-to-left (RL) readers (e.g., Maass & Russo, 2003). Other graphic production tasks have also shown an effect of reading direction (Faghihi, Garcia, & Vaid, 2019;Vaid, 2011). ...
Poster
Cognitive research on drawing has uncovered spatial biases both in the facing of individual objects in isolation and in the depiction of events. The present study utilized a drawing task to extend the scope of inquiry into directional biases in event representation by examining how left to right and right to left readers depict different versions of an event. Specifically, we wondered whether the starting point vs. ending point of an event would engender different mental models or a single mental representation, with a single directional bias. The results suggest that there is a single mental representation that shapes both initiation and completion of events. Events are typically depicted in a rightward direction, regardless of whether the agent is initiating or completing the action. Moreover, this was observed regardless of habitual reading/writing direction, suggesting that action representations conform to a left to right movement arc. This is consistent with Chatterjee et al.’s (1999) suggestion that the left hemisphere is specialized for spatial attention with a vector from left to right. Apparently, learning to read and write in a certain direction does not influence the direction of this vector.
... The results showed that the French children bisected the line to the left of the true centre (but see Ishii et al., 2011, for Japanese vs. English speaking adults), used increasing counter-clockwise movements when drawing circles, and filled more dots when going from left to right compared to Tunisian children, suggesting visuo-spatial behaviour might be influenced by reading and writing habits. Furthermore, preferences for directions (e.g., in pictures) are strongly related to reading/writing habits, with subjects preferring stimuli oriented (or moving) in the direction corresponding to their own writing system (e.g., Maass & Russo, 2003, with Allaith, 2013, who found no difference between Arabic reading and English reading children). Other studies focused on differences in eye movements related to the writing system. ...
Article
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Response priming refers to the finding that a prime preceding a target influences the response to the target. With German subjects, horizontally moving dots as primes, and static arrows as targets, there are typically faster responses to compatible (i.e., prime and target are associated with the same response) as compared to incompatible targets (i.e., positive compatibility effect, PCE) with short stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs). In contrast, with longer SOAs, subjects respond faster to incompatible as compared to compatible targets (i.e., negative compatibility effect, NCE). In the present study, we extended the evidence by adding vertically oriented materials. Furthermore, we tested subjects from Malaysia and Japan, where the vertical orientation is more present in daily life, and compared them to German subjects to investigate whether the amount of experience with one orientation influences the compatibility effects on this orientation. Overall, we found pronounced PCEs in the short SOA (i.e., 150 ms) but only reduced PCEs in the longer SOAs (i.e., 350, 550, and 750 ms) across all countries and orientations. There were no differences between the German and Malaysian samples, but the Japanese sample showed larger PCEs in the longer SOAs compared to both other samples. Furthermore, we found larger PCEs for horizontal than vertical materials in the short SOA and larger PCEs for vertical than horizontal materials in the longer SOAs. We discuss our findings in light of theories and findings on compatibility effects as well as attentional mechanisms.
... In general, they find that people appear to construct a "mental timeline" that is organized on a horizontal, left-to-right axis (for reviews, see Hoerl &McCormack, 2019 andBonato, Zorzi, &Umiltà, 2012). Evidence in support of such a timeline comes from the way people spatially arrange items representing temporal events and concepts (e.g., Bergen, Lau & Ting, 2012;Fuhrman & Boroditsky, 2010;Leone, et al., 2018;Maass & Russo, 2003), as well as their implicit differences in reaction times on temporal judgment tasks (Gevers, Reynvoet, & Fias, 2003Ishihara et al., 2008;Santiago, et al., 2007Santiago, et al., , 2010Torralbo et al., 2006;Vallesi et al., 2014;Weger & Pratt, 2008). Likewise, people's spontaneous temporal gestures can reflect a horizontal axis that represents time (Casasanto & Jasmin, 2012;Cooperrider & Nunez, 2009). ...
Conference Paper
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Descriptions of durational relations can be ambiguous, e.g., the description 'two different meetings happened at the same time' could mean that one meeting started before the other ended, or it could mean that the meetings both started and ended simultaneously. A recent theory posits that people mentally simulate events with durations by representing the starts and ends of events along a chronological axis (Khemlani et al., 2015). To draw conclusions from this durational mental model, reasoners consciously scan it in the direction of earlier time points to later time points. The account predicts that people should prefer descriptions that are congruent with a chronological scanning procedure, e.g., descriptions that mention the starts of events before the ends of events. Two experiments corroborate the prediction, and show that chronological biases in temporal reasoning manifest in cases when reasoners consciously evaluate the durations of events.
... 122 Today, 86% of the world population 123 knows how to read/write, and this expertise is mastered very early in economically developed countries. This progress has deep consequences on our cognition [124][125][126][127] . For instance, Guida et al. 1 showed that reading/writing directionality influences the direction of our thoughts when 29 memorizing sequences. ...
Article
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When Western participants are asked to keep in mind a sequence of verbal items, they tend to associate the first items to the left and the last items to the right. This phenomenon, known as SPoARC (Spatial Positional Association Response Codes) effect, has been interpreted as showing that individuals spatialize the memoranda by creating a left-to-right mental line with it. One important gap in our knowledge concerns the development of this phenomenon: when do Western individuals start organizing their thought from left to right? To answer this question, 274 participants in seven age groups were tested (Kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Adults). We used a new protocol meant to be children-friendly, which involves associating two caves to two animals using a two-alternative spatial forced choice. Participants had to guess in what cave a specific animal could be hidden. Results showed that it is from Grade 3 that participants spatialize information in working memory in a left-to-right fashion like adults.
... Regarding the horizontal dimension, the body-specificity hypothesis of Casasanto and colleagues (Casasanto, 2009;Casasanto & Chrysikou, 2011;Casasanto & Jasmin, 2010) states that right-handers tend to associate positive content with their right side and negative content with their left side (the opposite occurs with left-handed people). But a leftto-right bias has also been observed (Chae & Hoegg, 2013;Monahan & Romero, 2020), according to which individuals tend to have a preference for the reading/writing direction of their native language (left to right for Western society) when they have to represent visual stimuli in space (Chatterjee, 2001;Maass & Russo, 2003;Santiago et al., 2007). So, also this effect can be reconducted to an embodied phenomenon, due to the fact that this would be the result of the simulation of the oriented actions involved in writing and reading activities (Schubert & Maass, 2011;Suitner & Giacomantonio, 2012). ...
Article
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Many studies suggest that specific movements or postures with shared social meaning can influence mainly verbal stimuli evaluation. On the other hand, several visuospatial biases can interact with this influence. Thus, we tested whether both head and stimuli movements can influence individual attitude towards food pictures. In two experiments, we used images of common foods with a weak positive valence in association with two kinds of movements. In Experiment 1, head movement was induced by presenting food pictures with a vertical or horizontal continuous movement on a computer screen. Conversely, Experiment 2 was conducted to test the effects of participants' own head movements with respect to the same food pictures presented in a fixed position. In neither case did head movements influence product evaluation. However, Experiment 1 revealed that the continuous movement left-right-left in the horizontal condition improved the desire to buy and eat, as well as the willingness to pay for the product shown. Experiments 3 and 4 demonstrated, respectively, that this effect disappears if the stimulus does not make the return direction, and that it does not depend on the starting or final placement of the images on the screen. These findings are discussed in the context of embodied cognition and visuospatial bias theories.
... The current study's hypothesis has yet to test languages that are organized oppositely, such as English and Arabic. A previous study has shown that people who have learned these languages tend to visualize solid material oppositely (Maas & Russo, 2003). ...
Preprint
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This experiment continued previous research on whether a person’s first-learned written language effects the ability to recall specific stimuli using sensory memory. A sample of 60 native English-speaking adults and 60 native Japanese-speakers were randomly separated into two groups and tested using Power Point 6 slides at .5 second exposures apiece. Groups EA and JA were shown six slides with letters organized horizontally and Groups EB and JB were shown six slides with letters organized vertically. The English-writing participants shown horizontal stimuli (M = 11.10 out of 12, SD = 1.03) were more accurate in reporting the first and last letters in each arrangement than those shown vertical stimuli (M = 6.37 out of 12, SD = 1.99), while conversely, the Japanese-writing participants were more accurate when shown vertical stimuli (M = 10.93, SD = 1.05) rather than horizontal (M = 6.23, SD = 2.20), F(1,116) = 244.302, p < .001, =.678. Based on previous research, these results further suggest that language and memory develop similarly.
... In 2003, Maass and Russo found that the influence of writing habits on horizontal spatial metaphors was far greater than that of hemispheric specialization; Italians tended to place subject words to the left of the object words, while Arabic tended to place the subject words to the right (Maass and Russo, 2003). Further studies found that Italian users tend to put the active group (men and young people) on the left of the passive group (women and the elderly), while Arabic users tend to put the active groups on the right. ...
Article
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The mapping relationship between social status and horizontal space (left/right) in Chinese culture has a long history. In order to explore the representation pattern of horizontal spatial metaphor of social status in Chinese culture, this study introduced two direct measurements, implicit relational assessment procedure (IRAP) paradigm, and spatial placement task to evaluate the mapping of social status to horizontal space. A total of 144 Chinese undergraduates participated in the research, wherein they were asked to place certain words indicating social status in either left or right box before or after the IRAP computer test. The results from the two measurements consistently showed that the mode of HIGH SOCIAL STATUS-LEFT and LOW SOCIAL STATUS-RIGHT (HLLR) had an advantage over HIGH SOCIAL STATUS-RIGHT and LOW SOCIAL STATUS-LEFT (HRLL), implying that the representation pattern of horizontal spatial metaphor of social status for the Chinese is HIGH SOCIAL STATUS-LEFT and LOW SOCIAL STATUS-RIGHT. However, the result convergence of the two measurements was not high, which suggests that embodiment effect has multiple characteristics and new specific experimental paradigms should be created to measure it.
... First, to accurately draw conclusions on the underlying processes driving the attentional bias and asymmetric priming effects, we lack a sample of participants from right-to-left speaking countries whose attention is expected to flow on the opposite direction. Although reversal effects, albeit weaker, have been found for social representation of people 62,63 , aesthetic judgements 28 , and memory performance 64 , they have not been observed with the specific paradigm we tested here. Bidirectional readers could also provide important insight on the extent to which the attentional bias operates. ...
Article
Full-text available
Movement is generally conceived of as unfolding laterally in the writing direction that one is socialized into. In ‘Western’ languages, this is a left-to-right bias contributing to an imbalance in how attention is distributed across space. We propose that the rightward attentional bias exercises an additional unidirectional influence on discrimination performance thus shaping the congruency effect typically observed in Posner-inspired cueing tasks. In two studies, we test whether faces averted laterally serve as attention orienting cues and generate differences in both target discrimination latencies and gaze movements across left and right hemifields. Results systematically show that right-facing faces (i.e. aligned with the script direction) give rise to an advantage for cue-target pairs pertaining to the right (versus left) side of space. We report an asymmetry between congruent conditions in the form of right-sided facilitation for: (a) response time in discrimination decisions (experiment 1–2) and (b) eye-gaze movements, namely earlier onset to first fixation in the respective region of interest (experiment 2). Left and front facing cues generated virtually equal exploration patterns, confirming that the latter did not prime any directionality. These findings demonstrate that visuospatial attention and consequent discrimination are highly dependent on the asymmetric practices of reading and writing.
... However, the spatial bias was slightly (but not statistically) weaker among Arabic participants, possibly due to the fact that data were collected in a country (Italy) in which Arabic speakers are not exclusively exposed to right-to-left languages. The spatial asymmetry may be stronger if data were collected in countries in which both the exposure to and the use of right-to-left languages is higher (e.g., Tunisia or Morocco; Maass & Russo, 2003). ...
Article
In four studies, we test the hypothesis that people, asked to envisage interactions between an ingroup and an outgroup, tend to spatially represent the ingroup where writing starts (e.g., left in Italian) and as acting along script direction. Using soccer as a highly competitive intergroup setting, in Study 1 (N = 100) Italian soccer fans were found to envisage their team on the left side of a horizontal soccer field, hence playing rightward. Studies 2a and 2b (N = 219 Italian and N = 200 English speakers) replicate this finding, regardless of whether the own team was stronger or weaker than the rival team. Study 3 (N = 67 Italian and N = 67 Arabic speakers) illustrates the cultural underpinnings of the Spatial Intergroup Bias, showing a rightward ingroup bias for Italian speakers and a leftward ingroup bias for Arabic speakers. Findings are discussed in relation to how space is deployed to symbolically express ingroup favoritism (Spatial Ingroup Bias) versus shared stereotypes (Spatial Agency Bias).
... For instance, Maass and Russo (2003) found that thematic role assignment (i.e., who did what to whom) varied as a function of writing and reading direction, such that Italians (rightward script) tended to draw the agent of action to the left of the patient, whereas Arabs (leftward script) tended to draw the agent to the right of the patient. Moreover, when considering Arabic-speaking participants who were studying in Italy and who performed the task with either Italian or with Arabic instructions, these participants showed an intermediate bias that was correlated with the number of years spent in a left-right writing country. ...
Chapter
According to current embodied cognition models, sensorimotor experiences play a critical role in cognition, including social cognition. Since our bodies are embedded in a sociocultural context, it is likely that the link between bodily states and cognition is shaped and constrained by culture. Here we argue that culture affects embodied cognition through three distinct means: (1) the physical environment and the affordances it offers, (2) cultural values and conventions that encourage certain sensorimotor experiences while discouraging others (such as body postures of submission or pride, smiling, hand-washing, and touching), and (3) cultural differences related to language, including metaphors and script direction. The present review is not meant to be exhaustive, but it offers selective insights into the paths through which diverse cultural environments shape embodied cognition. The chapter also discusses possible future venues for research on cultural embodied cognition.
... These proposals are difficult to test in industrialized groups, where any innate spatial biases may be masked by cultural conventions that cause number, time, and other domains to be spatialized in a consistent direction (e.g., reading and counting from left to right). These conventions are enough to influence mental mappings of these domains, which vary in direction with spatial practices like reading (17)(18)(19) and which can be independently changed by brief spatial training (20,21). These effects support theories of metaphorical mental representation positing that each mental mapping arises from the correlations between the relevant domains (e.g., space and number; space and time) that are found in the natural and cultural environment (21)(22)(23). ...
Preprint
Full-text available
In industrialized groups, adults implicitly map numbers, time, and size onto space according to cultural practices like reading and counting (e.g. from left to right). Here we tested the mental mappings of the Tsimane’, an indigenous population with few such cultural practices. Tsimane’ adults spatially arranged number, size, and time stimuli according to their relative magnitudes but showed no directional bias for any domain on any spatial axis; different mappings went in different directions, even in the same participant. These findings challenge claims that people have an innate left-to-right mapping of numbers and that such mappings arise from a domain-general magnitude system. Rather, the direction-specific mappings found in industrialized cultures may originate from direction-agnostic mappings that reflect the correlational structure of the natural world.
... Empirically, the forwardbackward spatial representation of time follows the direction of writing and reading (Boroditsky, 2011;Tversky, Kugelmass, & Winter, 1991). Hence, speakers of languages that are written from left to right (e.g., English) project the past to the left and the future to the right (Ouellet, Santiago, Funes, & Lupáñez, 2010;Santiago, Lupáñez, Pérez, & Funes, 2007), whereas the reverse has been observed for speakers of languages that are written from right to left, such as Hebrew (Fuhrman & Boroditsky, 2010) and Arabic (Maass & Russo, 2003). Further supporting the hypothesis that metaphor congruence facilitates processing, Ouellet et al. (2010, Experiment 1) found that the mere activation of temporal concepts is sufficient to shift the focus of spatial attention. ...
Article
Full-text available
In everyday language, abstract concepts are described in terms of concrete physical experiences (e.g., good things are “up”; the past is “behind” us). Stimuli congruent with such conceptual metaphors are processed faster than stimuli that are not. Since ease of processing enhances aesthetic pleasure, stimuli should be perceived as more pleasing when their presentation matches (rather than mismatches) the metaphorical mapping. In six experiments, speakers of English (Experiment 1-3a) and Farsi (Experiment 3b and 4) viewed valence- and time-related photos in arrangements congruent and incongruent with their metaphorical mapping. Consistent with the valence-verticality metaphor in both languages, English and Farsi speakers preferred visual arrangements that placed the happy photo above the sad photo. In contrast, participants’ preferences for time-related photos were moderated by the direction of writing. English speakers, who write from left to right, preferred arrangements that placed past-themed photos to the left of modern-themed photos; this was not observed for Farsi speakers, who write from right to left as well as left to right. In sum, identical stimuli enjoy an aesthetic advantage when their spatial arrangement matches the spatial ordering implied by applicable conceptual metaphors.
... Metaphor means using concrete, tangible, simple initial source concepts (size, weight, and brightness) to express and understand abstract, intangible, complex target domain concepts [25], such as the relation between darkness (simple concepts) and immoral behavior (complex concepts) [13]. Metaphor is always associated with individual experience, [25][26][27][28][29] and it can actively influence an individual's thoughts and behaviors in a deeply subconscious manner. The metaphor was important in the relation between environment and morality [18,30,31]. ...
Article
Full-text available
The physical environment plays an important role in moral cognition. Previous research has demonstrated that the physical environment affects individual moral judgment. Investigators have argued that the environment influences moral judgment through emotion and cognition, such as during metaphor processing. Following the intensification of urbanization and increases in population size, the phenomenon of a narrow environment has become more common. However, the relation between environmental spaciousness and moral judgment has not been thoroughly examined. We examined the effect of environmental spaciousness (spaciousness vs. narrowness) on moral judgments in Experiment 1 and Experiment 2. Results showed that participants report a higher rating score of moral judgment in more spacious environments compared with narrow environments. We further explored the roles of emotion and metaphor in the relation between environmental spaciousness and moral judgments. We found support for a partial mediation effect of emotion in the relationship between environmental spaciousness and moral judgment. The results also supported an association between the concept of spaciousness and tolerant cognition. Spacious environments may elicit positive emotions and more tolerant cognition, which in turn influences moral judgment. These results provide new evidence for the influence of the environment on moral judgments, and more attention may be warranted to incorporate this relationship in environmental design.
... The most efficient process is determined by a mental cost metric. This metric is defined based on the insertion, breaking of, and searching in the direction of links between spatial objects: breaking a link costs more than creating one, and searching has a culturally dependent left-right preference (e.g., Maass and Russo, 2003). ...
Article
Full-text available
In the last few decades, cognitive theories for explaining human spatial relational reasoning have increased. Few of these theories have been implemented as computational models, however, even fewer have been compared computationally to each other. A computational model comparison requires, among other things, a still missing quantitative benchmark of core spatial relational reasoning problems. By presenting a new evaluation approach, this paper addresses: (1) developing a benchmark including raw data of participants, (2) reimplementation, adaptation, and extension of existing cognitive models to predict individual responses, and (3) a thorough evaluation of the cognitive models on the benchmark data. The paper shifts the research focus of cognitive modeling from reproducing aggregated response patterns toward assessing the predictive power of models for the individual reasoner. It demonstrate that not all psychological effects can discern theories. We discuss implications for modeling spatial relational reasoning.
... To instantiate the assumptions from the verbal model into a cognitive model that can be tested and evaluated, Krumnack et al. (2010) introduced a queue in which the objects of the premises are inserted. This queue displays an implicit direction that is, according to Maass and Russo (2003), determined by the cultural left/right difference, e.g. the direction in which scripture is read. In addition, there seems to be a natural tendency for a left-to-right direction when imagining spatial events since a right hemisphere dominance for attention often leads to slightly pronounced processing of objects in the -contralateral -left visual hemi-field (de Schotten et al., 2011). ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Spatial relational descriptions in everyday life sometimes need to be revised in the light of new information. While there are cognitive models for reasoning about spatial descriptions, there are currently no models for belief revision for the spatial domain. This paper approaches this need by (i) revisiting existing models such as verbal model (Krumnack et al., 2010) and PRISM (Ragni and Knauff, 2013) and adapt them to deal with belief revision tasks, (ii) evaluate these models by testing the predictive accuracy for the individual reasoner on a previously conducted experiment by Bucher et al. (2013), (iii) provide baseline models and machine learning models, provide user-based collaborative filtering and content-based filtering methods, and provide an analysis on the individual level. Implications for predicting the individual and identifying strategies and shared similar reasoning patterns are discussed.
... According to comparative studies, in Western countries (cultures with leftto-right reading and writing systems), this line is assumed to extend from left to right with increasing magnitude. However, in countries with a culture of right-to-left-reading and writing it would extend from right to left (Tversky et al., 1991;Dehaene et al., 1993;Chatterjee, 2001;Maass and Russo, 2003;Zebian, 2005). Accordingly, English speaking participants can respond faster to an "odd vs even" query if the queried number is large and the response is made with the right hand, compared the left side; the opposite hand preference holds for a small number. ...
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The present paper reviews a series of studies regarding the effects of hemispheric asymmetry and reading and writing habits on directional preferences in reproducing horizontally-displayed visual stimuli. Hebrew readers, English readers, and Arabic readers were presented with arrays of horizontally-displayed directional and nondirectional stimuli, as well as with single stimuli. They were asked to reproduce the stimuli, and the direction of their reproduction, left-right or right-left, was recorded for analysis. Generally, in reproducing arrays of stimuli, English readers showed left-right directionality, whereas Hebrew readers showed right-left directionality. But in reproducing arrays of English and Hebrew letters, subjects of both groups showed left-right and right-left preferences, respectively. However, the right-left directional preferences shown by Hebrew readers were weaker than the left-right preferences shown by English readers. It was hypothesized that these differences are due to differential reading and writing habits acquired in school by English- and Hebrew-readers. In support of the reading and writing habit hypothesis, it was subsequently found that: (a) Arabic readers, who have stronger right-left reading and writing habits than Hebrew readers, show relatively stronger right-left directional preferences, and (b) with the introduction of English as a foreign language in the fifth grade, children show an increase in left-right directionality. Further investigation showed that, depending on the experimental conditions, directional preferences may be a function of either reading and writing habits, or hemispheric asymmetry, or both. Finally, the bearing of these findings on the "nature-nurture" controversy regarding the development of perceptual exploration in children is discussed.
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Humans use language to describe actions by mapping the thematic roles of agent (doer of actions) and patient (recipient of actions) on the grammatical categories of subject and object. The extent to which thematic roles can be conceptualized independent of language is not known. If nonlinguistic conceptualization of thematic roles is possible, then representation of these roles would evidence nonlinguistic characteristics. Motivated by observations in an aphasic man, we wished to learn if thematic roles are conceptualized spatially. Normally subjects were asked to draw stick figures depicting the thematic roles of agent and patient. They demonstrated a systematic spatial bias in locating agents to the left of where they located patients. This bias, somewhat mitigated by ordering effects of motor output and auditory input, was brought into clearest focus when subjects depicted thematic roles in a context stripped of surface sentential form. These data imply that, in their nascent form, the thematic roles of agent and patient are spatially represented prior to being projected on grammar.
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We report syntactic comprehension performance of a left-handed man with a right-hemisphere infarct. He was unable to accurately map grammatical categories (subject, object) onto thematic roles (agent, patient), despite demonstrating intact conceptual knowledge of these thematic roles. He performed poorly on both active and passive reversible sentences. His asyntactic thematic role assignment cannot be accounted for by a short-term memory impairment or any hypothesis that predicts selective vulnerability to passive sentence constructions. Rather than performing randomly, our patient used a temporal or spatial strategy in assigning thematic roles. Because he also had a production-mapping deficit and used the same temporal-spatial strategy in production tasks, we hypothesize that the mapping of thematic roles onto grammatical categories and vice versa may be a specific aspect of sentence processing that is common to sentential production and comprehension. We also raise the possibility that thematic roles have underlying spatial representations prior to being elaborated by grammar.
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Severe impairment of the analogue of mental representation is not compensated for by putative language-based cognitive processes in non-dysphasic brain-damaged patients. This undermines the hypothesis of an independent role for language in the generation of thought. Against this view it may be contended that there seems to be no obvious way in which analogical mental representation can decide between alternative syntactical structures available for the expression of thought. We performed a visual imagery experiment in which we asked 40 subjects to imagine visual scenes representing the meanings of simple utterances presented to them. The subjects then had to indicate the relative position, in each visual image, of two objects mentioned in each utterance. Series of utterances were presented differing syntactically (active or passive phrase) and semantically (specifying in different ways the spatial and temporal relations between the objects mentioned). The results of this mental imagery experiment indirectly support the hypothesis that syntactical structures can be represented in a nonlinguistic analogue medium.
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Are concepts expressed in language also represented spatially? To pursue this question we investigated the structure of events. Events are defined as actions with spatial trajectories that can be perceived by our senses and described in language. Events are expressed linguistically in sentences containing verbs which determine the thematic roles of the arguments (e.g., who is doing what to whom, where). Because of previous observations we focused on whether events are represented spatially by location of thematic roles and direction of actions. Location and direction were dissociated by contrasting different kinds of verbs: 'push' vs 'pull' in which actions move toward or away from the agent. To control for spatial effects produced by the surface structure of a left to right written language, we kept the structure of sentences constant and sought for spatial biases produced by differences in the meaning of these sentences. From three experiments using drawing and sentence-picture matching reaction time tasks, we found that normal subjects located agents to the left of patients and represented actions with a left to right directionality. These results are not easily explained by features of the surface structure of language or properties of propositional representations. We suggest that events have spatial representations in addition to their propositional counterparts of verbs and thematic roles. The specific spatial properties observed may relate to functional properties of the left hemisphere.
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Is language linked to mental representations of space? There are several reasons to think that language and space might be separated in our cognitive systems, but they nevertheless interact in important ways. These interactions are evident in language viewed as a means of communication and in language considered a form of representation. In communication, spatial factors may be explicit in language itself, such as the spatial-gestural system of American Sign Language. Even the act of conversing with others is a spatial behavior because we orient to the locations of other participants. Language and spatial representations probably converge at an abstract level of concepts and simple spatial schemas.
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The authors find East Asians to be holistic, attending to the entire field and assigning causality to it, making relatively little use of categories and formal logic, and relying on "dialectical" reasoning, whereas Westerners are more analytic, paying attention primarily to the object and the categories to which it belongs and using rules, including formal logic, to understand its behavior. The 2 types of cognitive processes are embedded in different naive metaphysical systems and tacit epistemologies. The authors speculate that the origin of these differences is traceable to markedly different social systems. The theory and the evidence presented call into question long-held assumptions about basic cognitive processes and even about the appropriateness of the process-content distinction.
Culture and systems of thought: Holistic versus analytic cognition Cross-cultural and developmental trends in graphic productions A conceptual basis for cultural psychology
  • R E Nisbett
  • K Peng
  • I Choi
  • A Norenzayan
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  • A Winter
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Multiple geometric representations of objects in languages and language learners
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Landau, B. (1996). Multiple geometric representations of objects in languages and language learners. In P. Bloom, M.A. Peterson, L. Nadel, & M.F. Garrett (Eds.), Language and space (pp. 317-363). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Portrait profiles and the notion of agency. Empirical Studies of the Arts
  • A Chatterjee
Chatterjee, A. (in press). Portrait profiles and the notion of agency. Empirical Studies of the Arts.