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Journal Article

The spatial mapping of concepts in English and Mandarin


Kidd,  Evan
Research School of Psychology, The Australian National University;
ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language;
Language Development Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Learning through Processing, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Wu, Q., Kidd, E., & Goodhew, S. C. (2019). The spatial mapping of concepts in English and Mandarin. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 31(7), 703-724. doi:10.1080/20445911.2019.1663354.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-9EE9-4
English speakers have been shown to map abstract concepts in space, which occurs on both the vertical and horizontal dimensions. For example, words such as God are associated with up and right spatial locations, and words such as Satan with down and left. If the tendency to map concepts in space is a universal property of human cognition, then it is likely that such mappings may be at least partly culturally-specific, since many concepts are themselves language-specific and therefore cultural conventions. Here we investigated whether Mandarin speakers report spatial mapping of concepts, and how these mappings compare with English speakers (i.e. are words with the same meaning associated with the same spatial locations). Across two studies, results showed that both native English and Mandarin speakers reported spatial mapping of concepts, and that the distribution of mappings was highly similar for the two groups. Theoretical implications are discussed.