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Weighing Up Physical Causes: Effects of Culture, Linguistic Cues and Content

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Cross-cultural differences in cognition are often related to one single cultural dimension. Whether this suffices even for simple tasks is examined in the context of causal attribution. Culture-specific attribution biases are well-established for the social domain, but under dispute for the physical domain. In order to identify and assess possible impacts on assigning physical causation, we conducted a cross-cultural experiment with participants from Germany, China and Tonga (n = 377). Participants were required to identify which of two entities is the ultimate cause for a physical interaction that was varied with regard to linguistic cues and content. Our data reveal overall cultural differences in attribution tendencies analogous to those in the social domain, but also an impact of linguistic cues and of the task-specific content.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, University of Freiburg, D-79085 Freiburg, Germany; 2: Department of Psychology, University of Freiburg, D-79085 Freiburg, Germany;, Email:


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