Recently, researchers reported a bias for placing agents predominantly on the left side of pictures. Both hemispheric specialization and cultural preferences have been hypothesized to be the origin of this bias. To evaluate these hypotheses, we conducted a study with participants exposed to different reading and writing systems: Germans, who use a left-to-right system, and Israelis, who use a right-to-left system. In addition, we manipulated the degree of exposure to the writing systems by testing preschoolers and adults. Participants heard agent-first or recipient-first sentences and were asked to draw the content of the sentences or to arrange transparencies of protagonists and objects such that their arrangement depicted the sentences. Although preschool-age children in both countries showed no directional bias, adults manifested a bias that was consistent with the writing system of their language. These results support the cultural hypothesis regarding the origin of spatial-representational biases.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. We thank Milanka Baker, Ksenia Kurth, Dörthe Mittelhaus-Radke, Marc Stallony, Hilal Uskaner, and Yamit Cohen for their help conducting this study. We also thank Pienie Zwitserlood for her constant support and insightful comments on earlier drafts of this article.