Monday, June 25, 2007

Writing and how we think   posted by Razib @ 6/25/2007 09:51:00 AM

There have long been scholars who try to show that writing systems have been important players in world history (e.g., the Chinese system vs. the alphabetic ones). Chris of Mixing Memory reports some interesting data which suggests that these sort of conjectures need not just be hypotheses, at least on the first order level of effect:
However, recent evidence argues against this explanation. Several studies have shown that adults who learned to write in a right-to-left writing system (as in Hebrew), as opposed to left-to-right (as in English), tend to put agents on the right and patients on the left, with actions tending to be represented as moving from right to left. In other words, the inherent spatial aspect of action representations could be a product of the writing system we use, rather than the wiring of our brain....

...The fact that the children who couldn't write didn't show the bias, while adults educated in left-to-right and right-to-left writing systems showed opposite, language-consistent biases in agent placement strongly suggests that it is the writing system, and not the innate wiring of the brain, that our action representations are inherently spatial.