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reading direction


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The sequential flow of the writing system of a particular language (e.g. for English this is left to right; for Arabic or Hebrew it is right to left). Linguists Ting Ting Chan and Benjamin Bergen (2004) have offered experimental evidence that ‘the location where a writing system starts is where speakers attend first in their visual field’. Other factors play a part of course: for most people the right hemisphere is dominant for visuo-spatial tasks, giving an attentional bias to the left visual field (see also hemispheric lateralization). The pattern of the saccade varies depending on what the brain needs to know (see also eye movements). However, Wölfflin argues that Westerners tend to read pictures from left to right. In European art, movement tends to enter from the left, and photographic manuals often recommend this direction of action. Before-and-after formats follow this pattern and even within a single frame, figures ‘facing the future’ face right. Several theorists have argued that Westerners tend to identify with figures on the left, seeing it as ‘our’ side. In Windows Messenger, users invariably initiate a virtual hug by choosing a right-facing emoticon. In cultures where the reading direction is right to left, these principles are reversed, as can be seen by looking at cartoon strips versioned for Western readers. See also diagonality; flipped image; glance curve.

http://www2.hawaii.edu/~bergen/papers/f895-chan.pdf Writing direction influences spatial cognition

Subjects: Media Studies.


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