Verbal Labels Affect Holistic and Analytic Thinking Styles in Native English Speakers

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



The Cognitive Science Society


Holistic and analytic thinking styles are well-documented in cultural psychology. However, recent studies suggest that language potentially mediates the influence of culture on thinking styles. The overarching goal of this study is to examine how verbal labels impact people’s thinking styles. Study 1 sought to examine whether thinking styles in a classic triad task could depend on verbal or pictorial formats. Although we observed a significant correlation between performance in verbal and picture triad tasks, more participants were classified as holistic thinkers with a verbal compared to a picture triad task. In Study 2, we examined whether participants could shift their thinking styles in the verbal triad task after being primed to focus on categorical associations. We found that females were influenced by this prime and displayed more analytic thinking. Our results suggest that language can influence thinking styles and that thinking styles are context-dependent.