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Grammar, Gender and Demonstratives in Lateralized Imagery for Sentences

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We investigated biases in the organization of imagery by asking participants to make stick-figure drawings of sentences containing a man, a woman and a transitive action (e.g. she kisses that guy). Previous findings show that prominent features of meaning and sentence structure are placed to the left in drawings, according to reading direction (e.g. Stroustrup and Wallentin in Lang Cogn 10(2):193-207, 2018. 10.1017/langcog.2017.19). Five hundred thirty participants listened to sentences in Danish and made eight drawings each. We replicated three findings: (1) that the first mentioned element is placed to the left more often, (2) that the agent in the sentence is placed to the left, and (3) that the grammatical subject is placed to the left of the object. We further tested hypotheses related to deixis and gender stereotypes. By adding demonstratives (e.g. Danish equivalents of this and that), that have been found to indicate attentional prominence, we tested the hypothesis that this is also translated into a left-ward bias in the produced drawings. We were unable to find support for this hypothesis. Analyses of gender biases tested the presence of a gender identification and a gender stereotype effect. According to the identification hypothesis, participants should attribute prominence to their own gender and draw it to the left, and according to the stereotype effect participants should be more prone to draw the male character to the left, regardless of own gender. We were not able to find significant support for either of the two gender effects. The combination of replications and null-findings suggest that the left-ward bias in the drawing experiment might be narrowly tied to left-to-right distribution in written language and less to overall prominence. No effect of handedness was observed.

TidsskriftJournal of Psycholinguistic Research
Sider (fra-til)843-858
Antal sider16
StatusUdgivet - aug. 2019

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