Spatial agency bias and word order flexibility : a comparison of 14 European languages

Suitner, Caterina and Maass, Anne and Navarrete, Eduardo and Formanowicz, Magdalena and Bratanova, Boyka and Cervone, Carmen and Hakoköngäs, Eemeli and Kuppens, Toon and Lipourli, Eleni and Rakić, Tamara and Scatolon, Andrea and Teixeira, Catia P. and Wang, Zhenlan and Pedro Sobral, Maria and Carrier, Antonin (2021) Spatial agency bias and word order flexibility : a comparison of 14 European languages. Applied Psycholinguistics, 42 (3). pp. 657-671. ISSN 0142-7164

[thumbnail of Suitner et al 2020]
Text (Suitner et al 2020)
Suitner_et_al_2020.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs.

Download (427kB)


The Spatial Agency Bias predicts that people whose native language is rightward written will predominantly envisage action along the same direction. Two mechanisms contribute jointly to this asymmetry: (a) an embodied process related to writing/reading; (b) a linguistic regularity according to which sentence subjects (typically the agent) tend to precede objects (typically the recipient). Here we test a novel hypothesis in relation to the second mechanism, namely that this asymmetry will be most pronounced in languages with rigid word-order. A pre-registered study on 14 European languages (n=420) varying in word-order flexibility confirmed a rightward bias in drawings of interactions between two people (agent and recipient). This bias was weaker in more flexible languages, confirming that embodied and linguistic features of language interact in producing it.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Applied Psycholinguistics
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? linguistics and languagelanguage and linguisticspsychology(all)experimental and cognitive psychology ??
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
11 Nov 2020 10:15
Last Modified:
15 Jun 2024 00:20