The Influence of Native Acquisition of Chinese on Mental Rotation Strategy Preference: An EEG Investigation

Yingli Li, Michael W. O’Boyle, Lihong Liu, Xiang Yan Zeng, Ji Jia Zhang, Jianying Zhu, Yining Miao

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3 Scopus citations


Eighty-five native Chinese speakers performed the Vandenberg and Kuse (Perceptual and Motor Skills, 47, 599–604, 1978) Mental Rotation Test (MRT) while the electroencephalogram (EEG) was used to concurrently monitor corresponding patterns of brain activation. The results showed that irrespective of their sex or college major (i.e., physical or social science), native Chinese speakers exhibited bilateral beta activation over the frontal and temporal regions as well activation of the parietal lobes, particularly on the left-side, suggesting a preference for a combined verbal/analytic and spatial/holistic mental rotation (MR) strategy. This pattern stands in contrast to native English speakers, who in earlier studies have been shown to selectively activate one or the other hemisphere and to engage either a verbal/analytic (left hemisphere) or spatial/holistic (right hemisphere) MR strategy depending upon their sex and/or college major (see Li and O’Boyle, The Psychological Record, 58, 287–300, 2008, The Psychological Record, 61, 2-20, 2011, The Psychological Record, 63, 27–42, 2013). The potential positive impact of natively acquiring a highly logographic language like Chinese on spatial processing in general and mental rotation in particular is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-328
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Record
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 30 2014


  • Chinese language
  • Mental rotation
  • Mental rotation strategies

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