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Your native language affects what you can and can’t see

02 November 2018

The idea that the language that you speak influences how you think about and experience the world (the so-called Sapir-Whorf hypothesis) has a long and storied history.

A lot of research into the issue has focused on colour perception, and evidence has accumulated that people whose native languages have different colour categories don’t see the world in quite the same way.

Now in a new paper, published in Psychological Science, Martin Maier and Rasha Abdel Rahman at the Humboldt University of Berlin report that by affecting visual processing at an early stage, such linguistic differences can even determine whether someone will see a coloured shape – or they won’t.

“Our native language is thus one of the forces that determine what we consciously perceive,” they write. 

Read more in a new post by Emma Young on our Research Digest blog.


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