Spatial biases in understanding descriptions of static scenes: The role of reading and writing direction


Habitual reading and writing direction (RWD) is known to induce spatial biases in meaning construction from descriptions of actions. We extended prior studies to descriptions of static scenes and assessed the flexibility of these spatial habits in bicultural minds. Sentences like "the table is between the lamp and the TV” were auditorily presented, and the task was to draw the described situation. A Spanish group preferred to deploy the objects from left to right, whereas a Moroccan group preferred right to left. A third group of highly Spanish-acculturated Arabs showed a pattern very similar to Spanish, but milder. Despite these differences, the three groups equally preferred those options generating a lower memory load. We conclude that RWD is able to bias the understanding of static descriptions; that these spatial habits are flexible; and that memory management follows universal principles.

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