An interesting story on a study involving the much-discussed influence of language on perception:
University of California researchers tested the hypothesis that language plays a role in perception by carrying out a series of colour tests.
They found that people were able to identify colours faster in their right visual field than in their left.
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study said it was because the right field is processed in the brain area responsible for language…
They asked 13 people to identify a colour on a square among a group of other squares all of which were the same colour.
In one test the squares were all shades of blue, with one square being a different shade.
In the second test there was two colours used, blue and green. The participants were quicker in the second test at identifying the different colour square when it was in their right field of vision – to the right of their head.
There was no difference in speed in the first test, suggesting because the colours had a different name in the second test the mind was able to identify the colour more quickly when it was seen in a certain field of vision.
I finally found the abstract of the actual PNAS article, “Whorf hypothesis is supported in the right visual field but not the left” (the full article requires a subscription). It’ll be a long time before we know how all this stuff works, but I’m always glad to see experiments that shed a little light. (Thanks for the tip, Anatoly!)
Update. See now Mark Lieberman’s detailed discussion (with illustrations) in Language Log.