Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Judith B. Bryant, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Nathan Maxfield, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas Sanocki, Ph.D.


Cognition, Linguistic, Memory, Perception, Relativity, Sapir-Whorf


According the linguistic relativity hypothesis, the language one speaks affects how one thinks. Because languages differ in how they categorize color, linguistic relativity has often been tested by conducting experiments on color perception and memory. This study examines the linguistic relativity hypothesis using ecologically valid stimuli: pictures of eyes. Because Russian-speakers are more likely to describe blue/grey eyes as grey, whereas English speakers are more likely to describe them as blue, English and Russian participants were asked to match the overall color of blue eyes to a color scale. There were three conditions. In the first condition (perception), participants saw the color scale and an eye picture simultaneously and then chose the color that best matched the picture. In the second condition (memory), participants matched the color of an eye to the color scale from memory. The third condition (label) was similar to the second, except participants labeled the eye orally before matching the color from memory. A 3 (condition) x 2 (language) ANCOVA and Bayesian analysis were used to analyze the data. Overall, the ANCOVA and Bayesian analysis indicated that there was a main effect of language. Russian-speaking participants were more likely to rate the eyes as greyer than English-speaking participants. The Bayesian analysis also suggested that there may also have been an interaction, with Russian and English-speaking participants rating the eyes similarly in the perception condition, but not the memory or labeling conditions. Overall, the findings provide novel evidence for the linguistic relativity hypothesis.

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