Space–Time Congruency Effects Using Eye Movements During Processing of Past- and Future-Related Words

Camille L. Grasso, Johannes C. Ziegler, Jennifer T. Coull, and Marie Montant.

2022.  Experimental Psychology 69 (4): 210–17@HAL

In Western cultures where people read and write from left to right, time is represented along a spatial continuum that goes from left to right (past to future), known as the mental timeline (MTL). In language, this MTL was supported by space–time congruency effects: People are faster to make lexical decisions to words conveying past or future information when left/right manual responses are compatible with the MTL. Alternatively, in cultures where people read from right to left, space–time congruency effects go in the opposite direction. Such cross-cultural differences suggest that repeated writing and reading dynamic movements are critically involved in the spatial representation of time. In most experiments on the space–time congruency effect, participants use their hand for responding, an effector that is associated to the directionality of writing. To investigate the role of the directionality of reading in the space–time congruency effect, we asked participants to make lateralized eye movements (left or right saccades) to indicate whether stimuli were real words or not (lexical decision). Eye movement responses were slower and higher in amplitude for responses incompatible with the direction of the MTL. These results reinforce the claim that repeated directional reading and writing movements promote the embodiment of time-related words.


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