[Book review] Living in an asymmetrical world: how writing direction affects thought and action, by Anne Maass, Caterina Suitner, and Jean-Pierre Deconchy (2014)

Hegarty, P. (2015). [Book review] Living in an asymmetrical world: how writing direction affects thought and action, by Anne Maass, Caterina Suitner, and Jean-Pierre Deconchy (2014). Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, 20(5) 639 - 641.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1357650X.2015.1023204

Abstract

Between 1956 and 1958, 22-year-old French psychologist Jean-Pierre Deconchy taught the youngest students at a primary school in the Lebanon. That school, whose students were largely Arabic Maronite Christians, was twinned with a training centre of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency “in an attempt to heal some of the wounds inflicted by the events in Palestine” (p. vii). Deconchy made a series of observations and conducted several investigations about the schoolchildren’s cognition in regard to the left-right axis in space. Their thinking was influenced by their first language, Arabic, which is written right to left. Deconchy was concerned that this first language complicated the children’s task of learning in French, a language written left-to-right. These studies were presented as part of Deconchy’s postgraduate diploma in philosophy with psychology. His research is translated into English and presented here as this book’s first three substantive chapters. It is accompanied by his foreword; and a short introduction, some commentary, and two chapters authored by Anna Maass and Caterina Suitner. These two psychologists describe current understanding of processing of information in the left-right axis, and of changes in research practices from Deconchy’s time to their own.

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