Psychology Has Been Greatly Enriched By Concepts From Non-English Languages (And Why It Should Engage Cross-Culturally Even More)


A century of research on the linguistic relativity hypothesis (LHR) has shown that the language we speak profoundly affects our experience and understanding of life, impacting everything from our perception of time and space to the construction of our self-identity, writes Tim Lomas.

What might the implications of the LHR be for psychology? As a science, the field generally aims to be neutral and objective, and to discover universal truths about the human mind. Yet it is surely consequential that the field mostly conducts its business in English. For instance, if a phenomenon has not been identified in English – even if it has in other languages – it is unlikely to be a topic of concern, and may not even “exist” for English-speaking scholars at all. One way that the field has sought to address this limitation is by “borrowing” words from other languages and cultures. To ascertain the extent of this cross-cultural borrowing, I analysed a sample of words in psychology and recently published my results in the Journal of Positive PsychologyContinue reading →

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