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Psychon Bull Rev. 2011 Feb;18(1):150-7. doi: 10.3758/s13423-010-0021-5.

Who dunnit? Cross-linguistic differences in eye-witness memory.

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Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, 1101 E. 10th Street, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.


Does eye-witness memory differ depending on the language one speaks? We examined English and Spanish speakers' descriptions of intentional and accidental events, and their memory for the agents of these events. English and Spanish speakers described intentional events similarly, using mostly agentive language (e.g., "She broke the vase"). However, when it came to accidental events English speakers used more agentive language than did Spanish speakers. Results from a non-linguistic memory task mirrored the patterns in language. English and Spanish speakers remembered the agents of intentional events equally well. However, English speakers remembered the agents of accidental events better than did Spanish speakers. Together these findings demonstrate that there are cross-linguistic differences in event descriptions that have important consequences for eye-witness memory.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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