Writing Direction Influences Spatial Cognition

Abstract

The world's languages make use of different writing system orientations, running from left to right, from right to left, or from top to bottom. Interacting with writing systems is an important component of how literate humans gain and convey information, and as such the spatial routines we engage in while reading and writing may well have an impact on the spatial organization of other cognitive functions, like memory, visual attention, expectations about the orientations of processes, and so on. Three experiments tested for effects of writing system orientation on spatial cognition, using literate speakers of English, Mainland Chinese, and Taiwanese. The first experiment addressed memory for information in different parts of the visual field; the second, the differences in visual attention; and the third, the arrangement of sequential events in space. The results suggest that the orientation of a writing system is engrained in speakers' perceptual and motor routines to the point that it surfaces when they perform these other spatial tasks. More generally, the findings reported here support the idea that idiosyncratic characteristics of particular languages can influence general cognition.

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@inproceedings{Chan2005WritingDI, title={Writing Direction Influences Spatial Cognition}, author={Ting Ting Chan}, year={2005} }