Speakers of different languages process the visual world differently

Sarah Chabal, Viorica Marian*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations

Abstract

Language and vision are highly interactive. Here we show that people activate language when they perceive the visual world, and that this language information impacts how speakers of different languages focus their attention. For example, when searching for an item (e.g., clock) in the same visual display, English and Spanish speakers look at different objects. Whereas English speakers searching for the clock also look at a cloud, Spanish speakers searching for the clock also look at a gift, because the Spanish names for gift (regalo) and clock (reloj) overlap phonologically. These different looking patterns emerge despite an absence of direct language input, showing that linguistic information is automatically activated by visual scene processing. We conclude that the varying linguistic information available to speakers of different languages affects visual perception, leading to differences in how the visual world is processed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)539-550
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Volume144
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

Keywords

  • Bilingualism
  • Cognition
  • Language
  • Perception
  • Vision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental Neuroscience

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