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Surprising Science

Language Affects Perception

The New Scientist reports on an old idea, that once out of favor is gaining traction again: the language you speak, while not determining your perceptions, influences your worldview.

“Perhaps the most surprising effect of language is the way it shapes perception. … Gabriella Vigliocco at University College London has found, for example, that hearing verbs associated with vertical movement—such as ‘climb’, ‘rise’ or ‘drip’—affects the eye’s sensitivity to such motion. She showed volunteers a display consisting of 1000 dots, each of which moved either vertically or randomly. Vigliocco found that volunteers were more likely to detect the predominant direction of motion when they heard a verb that matched it, for example ‘rise’ when most of the dots were moving upwards.”


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