Lateralized Whorf Effect of Cross-Linguistic Spatial Relations in Korean and English Speakers
The Whorf hypothesis states that language affects thought, and has been debated relentlessly in the domain of color and space for decades. Recently, a method of research considering the functional organization of the brain revealed a lateralized effect of the Wharf hypothesis when a target stimulus is present in the right visual field (RVF), but not in the left (LVF). The English and Korean languages both classify spatial concepts of containment and support, but only Korean lexicalizes a spatial relation of "tightness of fit" that distinguishes how tightly (kkita), or loosely (nohta) an object is contained (in) or supported (on). We studied whether this linguistic difference will influence Korean and English speakers in a lateralized nonverbal similarity judgment task comprising three trial types that highlight these spatial relation distinctions. Results found that there was no lateralized Wharf effect, however there was still evidence of English and Korean speakers classifying spatial relations by their language. Explanations. as to why the study did not work are proposed, and the theory of the role that language plays in cognitive processes are explored.