Listening speaks to our intuition while reading promotes analytic thought

Geipel, J., & Keysar, B

It is widely assumed that thinking is independent of language modality because an argument is either logically valid or invalid regardless of whether we read or hear it. This is taken for granted in areas such as psychology, medicine, and the law. Contrary to this assumption, we demonstrate that thinking from spoken information leads to more intuitive performance compared with thinking from written information. Consequently, we propose that people think more intuitively in the spoken modality and more analytically in the written modality. This effect was robust in five experiments (N = 1,243), across a wide range of thinking tasks, from simple trivia questions to complex syllogisms, and it generalized across two different languages, English and Chinese. We show that this effect is consistent with neuroscientific findings and propose that modality dependence could result from how language modalities emerge in development and are used over time. This finding sheds new light on the way language influences thought and has important implications for research that relies on linguistic materials and for domains where thinking and reasoning are central such as law, medicine, and business.