How Grammatical Gender Affects Perspective Taking

Abstract

This is the first study to examine the influence of gender-sex congruence (match or mismatch between grammatical gender markers and participant sex) on the embodied processing of first-person sentences and images with either an internal or an external perspective in a picture-sentence verification task in Bulgarian modeled on Brunye et al.’s (2009) experimental paradigm. Participants were shown not to discriminate between perspectives when the grammatical gender was congruent with their own sex, thus allowing for an agentive interpretation by the reader. However, in the gender-sex incongruent condition, a significant 83 ms effect of image perspective was observed indicating large processing costs for attempting to adopt an internal perspective when the participant’s sex was incompatible with the first-person gender marking, hence with action simulation from an egocentric perspective. These results are discussed in terms of embodiment specificity accounts and the experiential basis of grammar processing.


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