Experimental research on reasoning and decision-making has been carried out primarily in English and related indo-European languages. Considering that reasoning and decision-making depend on language processing, with Guy Politzer we set out to establish whether differences in reasoning performance and competence existed between native speakers of English and Mandarin. A radical intepretation of Whorf’s linguistic relativity theses would claim that reasoning competence is shaped by the grammatical structure of the native language. We tested the hypothesis by comparing people performance on three IF-THEN reasoning problems: truth-table, conditional syllogism, selections tasks. A moderate interpretation of Whorf’s theory would claim that reasoning performance is affected by the grammatical structure of the language of reasoning. The mild hypothesis was tested by comparing people performance on three conditional argument evaluation problems each of which was prepared with two different Manadarin connectives that convey if… then. Contrary to Worf’s hypotheses, we didn’t find any evidence of differences in people reasoning competence nor performance.
The article A comparison of conditional reasoning in English and Chinese, written with Guy Politzer, appeared in Cognition and Culture: a cross-cultural approach to psychology (J. Altarriba editor, 1993, Elsevier Science Publishers).