Cross-national research on social description documents that Westerners favor abstract linguistic categories (e.g., adjectives rather than verbs) more than East Asians. Whereas culture-related schemas are assumed to underlie these differences, no research has examined this directly. The present study used the cultural priming paradigm to distinguish the role of cultural schemas from alternative country-related explanations involving linguistic structures or educational experiences. It compared Asian-Americans' descriptions of others and memory for social information following American versus Asian priming. Asian priming fostered more concrete, contextualized verb-based descriptions and reduced memory errors associated with trait inference, compared to American priming (and to separate samples of non-primed Asian-Americans and Euro-Americans). This provides the first incisive evidence that cultural schemas influence the linguistic categories used to describe and remember social targets. Implications for research on biculturals, culture-related schemas, and linguistic practices are discussed.

Michael Morris and Aurelia Mok
Journal Article
Publication Date
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

Full Citation

Morris, Michael and Aurelia Mok
. “Isolating effects of cultural schemas: Cultural priming shifts Asian-Americans' biases in social description and memory.”
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
, (January 01, 2011):