Do verbs and adjectives play different roles in different cultures? A cross-linguistic analysis of person representation

Anne Maass, Minoru Karasawa, Federica Politi, Sayaka Suga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

57 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Five studies are reported testing the hypothesis that Westerners (Italians) rely more on trait adjectives and that East Asians (Japanese) rely more on behavior-descriptive verbs in person description and memory. In Studies 1 (N = 80) and 2 (N = 128), Italians used more adjectives and fewer verbs than Japanese to describe individuals and groups. Likewise, Studies 3 (N = 161) and 4 (N = 84) revealed that Italians committed more memory errors indicative of behavior-to-trait inferences, whereas Japanese showed an opposite tendency (Study 3) or no difference (Study 4). Study 5 (N = 64) revealed that in both languages, adjectives were perceived to provide more information about the actor and that verbs were perceived to provide more information about the situation. Yet, Japanese participants found adjectives less predictive of future behavior but facilitative of the process of imagining a concrete situation. These results are interpreted as providing evidence for systematic cultural differences in the elaboration of social information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)734-750
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Volume90
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2006 May 1
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Adjectives
  • Cognition
  • Cultural differences
  • Culture
  • Inferences
  • Language abstraction
  • Person description
  • Person perception
  • Verbs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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