Key is a llave is a Schlüssel: A failure to replicate an experiment from Boroditsky et al. 2003
Mickan, A., Schiefke, M., & Anatol, S.
Key is a llave is a Schlüssel: A failure to replicate an experiment from Boroditsky et al. 2003. In M. Hilpert, & S. Flach (Eds.
), Yearbook of the German Cognitive Linguistics Association
(pp. 39-50). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. doi:doi.org/10.1515/gcla-2014-0004.
In this paper, we present two attempts to replicate a widely-cited but never fully published experiment in which German and Spanish speakers were asked to associate adjectives with nouns of masculine and feminine grammati-cal gender (Boroditsky et al. 2003). The researchers claim that speakers associ-ated more stereotypically female adjectives with grammatically feminine nouns and more stereotypically male adjectives with grammatically masculine nouns. We were not able to replicate the results either in a word association task or in an analogous primed lexical decision task. This suggests that the results of the original experiment were either an artifact of some non-documented aspect of the experimental procedure or a statistical fluke. The question whether speakers assign sex-based interpretations to grammatical gender categories at all cannot be answered definitively, as the results in the published literature vary consider-ably. However, our experiments show that if such an effect exists, it is not strong enough to be measured indirectly via the priming of adjectives by nouns.