DO LANGUAGES AFFECT THINKING ABOUT CAUSATION? Professor Boroditsky gives an example of a cognitive science experiment which shows how a language can shape thinking about causality. In the experiment, subjects were shown videos of people breaking eggs or spilling drinks either intentionally or accidentally. When the breaking or spilling was accidental, people who spoke Japanese or Spanish did not remember which of the people did it as well as English speakers remembered. Boroditsky gives the explanation that English speakers describe events in terms of agents doing things: “John broke the vase,” In Japanese or Spanish, the usual phrasing is “The vase broke itself.” Apparently people who structure their sentences in terms of agents do better at remembering who dropped an egg accidentally.

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