How Do Middle Eastern Students See the World? A Study of Relational Versus Categorical Encoding


Evidence exists that the human mind can process information from the surrounding world (Kagan, Moss, & Sigel, 1963) in two distinct ways: individualists (Westerners) rely on categorical processing, using similarities to group objects, people, and events, whereas collectivists (East Asians) process objects, people, and events by emphasizing functional relationships (Nisbett & Miyamoto, 2005). However, the encoding preferences of bicultural/bilingual individuals of Middle Eastern descent are unknown. In this study, Arabic-English bilingual students from Saudi Arabia (SA) were presented with word triplets. Their task was to select two items that “would go together”. Some triplets (e.g., shampoo, conditioner, hair) contained items that could be grouped by considering either shared features (categorical processing; e.g., shampoo and conditioner) or relationships (functional processing; e.g., shampoo and hair, or conditioner and hair). Each item appeared in both English and Arabic to ensure that linguistic cues would not promote one culture over the other. Participants’ culture was assessed through the orientation scale of Triandis and Gelfland (1998). In this study, participants’ preference for categorical processing coexisted with their mixed cultural orientation which included both collectivistic and individualistic dispositions. Implications for academic instruction are considered.

Author Information
Maura Pilotti, Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University, Saudi Arabia
Eman Abdulhadi, Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University, Saudi Arabia
Tahani Algouhi, Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University, Saudi Arabia

Paper Information
Conference: IICEHawaii2021
Stream: Challenging & Preserving: Culture

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Posted by amp21