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Journal Article

Variation in memory for body movements across cultures


Haun,  Daniel B. M.
Comparative Cognitive Anthropology, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
University of Portsmouth, UK;
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany;


Rapold,  Christian J.
Language and Cognition Group, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Haun, D. B. M., & Rapold, C. J. (2009). Variation in memory for body movements across cultures. Current Biology, 19(23), R1068-R1069. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2009.10.041.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-4126-2
There has been considerable controversy over the existence of cognitive differences across human cultures: some claim that human cognition is essentially universal [1,2], others that it reflects cultural specificities [3,4]. One domain of interest has been spatial cognition [5,6]. Despite the global universality of physical space, cultures vary as to how space is coded in their language. Some, for example, do not use egocentric ‘left, right, front, back’ constructions to code spatial relations, instead using allocentric notions like ‘north, south, east, west’ [4,6]: “The spoon is north of the bowl!” Whether or not spatial cognition also varies across cultures remains a contested question [7,8]. Here we investigate whether memory for movements of one's own body differs between cultures with contrastive strategies for coding spatial relations. Our results show that the ways in which we memorize movements of our own body differ in line with culture-specific preferences for how to conceive of spatial relations.