Writing direction, agency and gender stereotyping: An embodied connection

Caterina Suitner, Anne Maass

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Writing direction has surprising effects on social cognition. Such effects are addressed with a specific focus on languages written from left-to-right and right-to-left. The horizontal trajectory in which a language is written is related to cognitive spatial biases and to the representation of social targets. Specifically, social targets such as males and females are differently envisaged in space (Spatial Agency Bias), with representations of agentic targets (for example males) being more strongly associated with the writing trajectory (e.g., showing the rightward profiles in languages written rightwards). In line with the embodiment perspective, this effect is interpreted as the result of a simulation of the writing/reading actions while mentally representing an agentic target. The bias is shown to pervade different stages, including on-line and off-line cognition, encoding and decoding processes. It is moderated by people's beliefs, but it also affects such beliefs, suggesting a bi-directional link between attitudes and spatial arrangements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSpatial Dimensions of Social Thought
PublisherDe Gruyter Mouton
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9783110254310
ISBN (Print)9783110254303
StatePublished - Oct 28 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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