Spatial Agency Bias

Current project leader: Caterina Suitner 

Description: Writing and reading are embedded in our everyday life. We read books, instructions, messages, signs, and the news; we write notes, emails, and status updates on Twitter or Facebook. Writing and reading entail eye and, for writing, hand movements that are systematically directed. Script direction establishes a clear spatial organization of information, including socially relevant information, allowing for the creation of a shared reality. This can be compared to the railways, on which the mental images of our social world travel in our minds, and people in the same culture share this journey direction. The consequences for social cognition of culturally determined writing and reading habits are explored to show that the direction of texts (e.g., rightward for English and leftward for Arabic) creates a spatial model for thinking and the spatial organization of mental images is not devoid of meaning: The trajectory imposed by textual data affects how we mentally envisage action in general but also is enriched by social content, and specifically it is associated with agency, a key dimension of social thinking. 


  • National relevance research projects (PRIN-20082YHWHB). Main investigator: Anne Maass. Title: Embodiment and social cognition: The role of sensori-motor processes in perception of individuals and groups

Representative Publications:

  • Suitner, C., & Maass, A. (2016). Spatial Agency Bias: Representing People in Space. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 14,, ISSN 0065-2601, 5-YRS IF= 8.65
  • Suitner, C., Maass, A., Navarrete, E., Formanowicz, M., Bratanova, B., Cervone, C., . . . Carrier, A. (2021). Spatial agency bias and word order flexibility: A comparison of 14 European languages. Applied Psycholinguistics, 42(3), 657-671. doi:10.1017/S0142716420000831
  • Bettinsoli, M. L., Suitner, C., Maass, A., Finco, L., Sherman, S. J., & Salvador Casara, B. G. (2021). The Spatial Ingroup Bias: Ingroup Teams Are Positioned Where Writing Starts. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, DOI: 10.1177%2F0146167220984297