COMMUNICATION AND COGNITION
ROBERT M. KRAUSS
The traditional formulation of the relation of language and thought has
been in terms of linguistic determinism-the view that a language's grammar
constrains the way its speakers perceive the world and mentally represent
what they perceive. Best exemplified by the "Whorfian Hypothesis,"
this view has received little empirical support in the psychological literature.
C.Y. Chiu (of Hong Kong University) and I have proposed an alternative
to the Whorfian Hypothesis-namely, that it is language use rather
than language structure that affects cognition. We hypothesize that
using language creates or activates mental representations, and that such
mental representations can influence subsequent cognition. Ordinarily,
we think about communicative messages in terms of the effects they have
on their addressees. However, an implication of our hypothesis is that
factors (like audience design) that influence the specific form of the
message takes can also influence the way the speaker mentally represents
the message's contents. Early results show that speakers' mental representations
of graphic stimuli differ depending on whether they have described the
stimuli to children or adults. For a discussion of this approach and some
preliminary results, see Chiu, C.-y., Krauss, R. M., & Lau, I. Y.-M.
(in press). Some cognitive consequences of communication. In S. R. Fussell
& R. J. Kreuz (Ed.), Social and cognitive approaches to interpersonal
communication. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum..