Time is a fundamental domain of experience. In this paper we ask whether aspects of language and culture affect how people think about this domain. Specifically, we consider whether English and Mandarin speakers think about time differently. We review all of the available evidence both for and against this hypothesis, and report new data that further support and refine it. The results demonstrate that English and Mandarin speakers do think about time differently. As predicted by patterns in language, Mandarin speakers (...) are more likely than English speakers to think about time vertically (with earlier time-points above and later time-points below). (shrink)
Across cultures people construct spatial representations of time. However, the particular spatial layouts created to represent time may differ across cultures. This paper examines whether people automatically access and use culturally specific spatial representations when reasoning about time. In Experiment 1, we asked Hebrew and English speakers to arrange pictures depicting temporal sequences of natural events, and to point to the hypothesized location of events relative to a reference point. In both tasks, English speakers (who read left to right) arranged (...) temporal sequences to progress from left to right, whereas Hebrew speakers (who read right to left) arranged them from right to left, replicating previous work. In Experiments 2 and 3, we asked the participants to make rapid temporal order judgments about pairs of pictures presented one after the other (i.e., to decide whether the second picture showed a conceptually earlier or later time-point of an event than the first picture). Participants made responses using two adjacent keyboard keys. English speakers were faster to make “earlier” judgments when the “earlier” response needed to be made with the left response key than with the right response key. Hebrew speakers showed exactly the reverse pattern. Asking participants to use a space-time mapping inconsistent with the one suggested by writing direction in their language created interference, suggesting that participants were automatically creating writing-direction consistent spatial representations in the course of their normal temporal reasoning. It appears that people automatically access culturally specific spatial representations when making temporal judgments even in nonlinguistic tasks. (shrink)
In this paper we examine how English and Mandarin speakers think about time, and we test how the patterns of thinking in the two groups relate to patterns in linguistic and cultural experience. In Mandarin, vertical spatial metaphors are used more frequently to talk about time than they are in English; English relies primarily on horizontal terms. We present results from two tasks comparing English and Mandarin speakers’ temporal reasoning. The tasks measure how people spatialize time in three-dimensional space, including (...) the sagittal (front/back), transverse (left/right), and vertical (up/down) axes. Results of Experiment 1 show that people automatically create spatial representations in the course of temporal reasoning, and these implicit spatializations differ in accordance with patterns in language, even in a non-linguistic task. Both groups showed evidence of a left-to-right representation of time, in accordance with writing direction, but only Mandarin speakers showed a vertical top-to-bottom pattern for time (congruent with vertical spatiotemporal metaphors in Mandarin). Results of Experiment 2 confirm and extend these findings, showing that bilinguals’ representations of time depend on both long-term and proximal aspects of language experience. Participants who were more proficient in Mandarin were more likely to arrange time vertically (an effect of previous language experience). Further, bilinguals were more likely to arrange time vertically when they were tested in Mandarin than when they were tested in English (an effect of immediate linguistic context). (shrink)
ABSTRACTWhen faced with hardship, how do we emotionally appraise the situation? Although many factors contribute to our reasoning about hardships, in this article we focus on the role of linguistic metaphor in shaping how we cope. In five experiments, we find that framing a person’s cancer situation as a “battle” encourages people to believe that that person is more likely to feel guilty if they do not recover than framing the same situation as a “journey” does. Conversely, the “journey” frame (...) is more likely to encourage the inference that the person can make peace with their situation than the “battle” frame. We rule out lexical priming as an explanation for this effect and examine the generalizability of these findings to individual differences across participants and to a different type of hardship—namely, an experience with depression. Finally, we examine the language participants produced after encountering one of these metaphors, and we find tendencies to repeat and extend the metaphors encountered.... (shrink)
What is the role of language in constructing knowledge? In this article, we ask whether learning new relational language can create new ways of thinking. In Experiment 1, we taught English speakers to talk about time using new vertical linguistic metaphors, saying things like “breakfast is above dinner” or “breakfast is below dinner”. In Experiment 2, rather than teaching people new metaphors, we relied on the left–right representations of time that our American college student participants have already internalized through a (...) lifetime of visuospatial experience reading and writing text from left to right. In both experiments, we asked whether the representations are susceptible to verbal interference. We found that learning new metaphors created new space–time associations that could be detected in a nonlinguistic implicit association task; these newly learned representations were not susceptible to verbal interference; and with respect to both verbal and visual interference, representations newly learned from linguistic metaphor behaved just like those on the left–right axis that our participants had acquired through years of visuospatial experience. Taken together, these results suggest that learning new relational language can be a powerful tool in constructing new representations and expanding our cognitive repertoire. (shrink)
There is an old joke about a theoretical physicist who was charged with figuring out how to increase the milk production of cows. Although many farmers, biologists, and psychologists had tried and failed to solve the problem before him, the physicist had no trouble coming up with a solution on the spot. “ First,” he began, “we assume a spherical cow... ” [Tenenbaum & Griffiths].