Bodily Relativity: The body-specificity of language and thought


Do people with different kinds of bodies think differently? According to the body-specificity hypothesis (Casasanto 2009), they should. In this paper, I review evidence that right- and left-handers, who perform actions in systematically different ways, use correspondingly different areas of the brain for imagining actions and representing the meanings of action verbs. Beyond the concrete domain of action, the way people use their hands influences the way they represent abstract ideas with positive and negative emotional valence like “goodness,” “honesty,” and “intelligence,” and how they communicate about them in spontaneous speech and gesture. Changing how people use their right and left hands can cause them to think differently, suggesting that handedness is not merely correlated with cognitive differences. Body-specific patterns of experience shape the way people think, feel, communicate, and make decisions.

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