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Languages flex cultural thinking



Recent studies have revealed remarkable interactions between language and emotion. Here, we show that such interactions influence judgments made regarding cultural information. Balanced Welsh–English bilinguals categorized statements about their native Welsh culture as true or false. Whilst participants categorized positive statements as true when they were true, they were biased towards categorizing them as true also when they were false, irrespective of the language in which they read them. Surprisingly, participants were unbiased when categorizing negative statements presented in their native language Welsh, but showed a reverse bias - categorizing sentences as false, even when they were true - for negative statements when they read them in English. The locus of this behavior originated from online semantic evaluation of the statements, shown in corresponding modulations of the N400 peak of event-related brain potentials. These findings suggest that bilinguals perceive and react to cultural information in a language-dependent fashion.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Dr Ceri Ellis, Division of Neuroscience & Experimental Psychology, Faculty of Biology, Medicine & Health, Room 3.316, Jean McFarlane Building, University of Manchester, Oxford Rd, Manchester, M13 9PL


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*This work was supported by the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol [CE, AV-E, and MWJ;] and the Economic and Social Research Council UK [GT; ES/E024556/1]. We thank Jiehu Hu, Yang Li, and Cecile Barbet for their assistance with data collection. We also thank Gary Oppenheim and Christopher Saville for advice on the data analysis.



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