Dealing with contradiction in a communicative context: A cross-cultural study

Jean-Baptiste Van der Henst, Hugo Mercier, Hiroshi Yama, Yayoi Kawasaki and Kuniko Adachi


In this paper, we investigate the impact of two factors on the way people address conflicting information. One relates to culture and the other to the communicative context in which contradiction occurs. We compared two theoretical approaches, one that focuses on the former factor—the culturalist approach—and one that focuses on the latter factor—the evolutionary approach. According to the culturalist approach, the way we deal with contradiction can be markedly affected by culture, so that people from cultural environments with different social practices are more or less inclined to accept contradictions. In particular, this approach predicts that Easterners are more likely to search for a compromise between two conflicting view-points than Westerners, who tend to follow a logical principle of non-contradiction. In contrast, the evolutionary approach considers that when contradiction occurs in a communicative context, universal mechanisms designed to deal with the problem of managing deceptive information go into effect and lead to the tendency of giving more weight to one's own belief than to the other's conflicting view. We tested these two approaches with Japanese and French participants. Our data supports the evolutionary approach, since both groups showed the same bias of favoring one's own position when it was challenged by another's.

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Intercultural Pragmatics is a fully peer-reviewed forum for theoretical and applied pragmatics research. The journal promotes the development and understanding of pragmatic theory and intercultural competence by publishing research that focuses on general theoretical issues, more than one language and culture, or varieties of one language, while making a special effort to cross disciplinary boundaries.