Studies: Americans made fewer mistakes when judging the orientation of a rod placed inside a frame (East Asians were more likely to be influenced by the position of the surrounding frame). On the other hand, East Asians could more accurately estimate the relative length of a line within a contextual frame. (Ji, L., et al. Culture, control, and perception of relationships in the environment. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 78, 943–955. 2000. Kitayama, S., et al. Perceiving an object and its context in different cultures: a cultural look at new look. Psychol. Sci. 14, 201–206. 2003.)

Studies of basic cognitive abilities, such as estimating duration of time, has shown that speakers of different languages differ in ways that can be predicted by the patterns of metaphors in their language. For example:

  • English speakers talk about duration of time in terms of length (e.g., that was a short talk, the meeting didn’t take long) and estimate that a line of greater length remains on the test screen for a longer period of time
  • Spanish and Greek speakers are more likely to talk about duration of time in terms of amount (e.g., use words such as much, big, and little rather than “short and “long”) and Greek speakers estimate that a container that is fuller remains longer on the screen

Interestingly, when English speakers were taught to use different ways in which to speak of time, for example using size metaphors as in Greek to describe duration (e.g., a movie is larger than a sneeze), their cognitive performance began to resemble that of Greek or Mandarin speakers. (Max Brockman, Editor. What’s Next? Dispatches on the Future of Science. p 118-123. NY: Vintage Books, 2009.)