Linguistic relativity is the idea that the language you speak affects how you think. A lot of people know this as the “Sapir-Whorf hypothesis” or “Whorfianism” after one of its earliest proponents, Benjamin Whorf. Many people think that linguistic relativity has died out, that it has been disproven, or that it is generally accepted as nonsense. This is far from the truth.
In a study recently published in the British Journal of Social Psychology, University of Southampton researchers found that prisoners rated themselves equal to or better than non-incarcerated community members with respect to honesty, morality, self-control, and other attributes. These findings add to the substantial base of literature supporting the "better-than-average effect" (BTAE).
The important part of Lupyan’s theory is that the effect of language on thought takes place online — it does not create long-lasting changes in cognition or perception (which is why it can be disrupted by aphasia). This is in contradiction to previous theories that have been used to support the idea of linguistic relativity, which is what makes the label-feedback hypothesis so interesting.
At the end of the last post, I stated that linguistic interference was often used as an argument against the interaction of language and thought, but that Lupyan turns this around and uses it as support for this very theory. Let us take a look at how this works.
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