The Impact of Language-Induced Cultural Mindset on Originality in Idea Generation

Sharon Arieli*, Sari Mentser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Creativity is vital in the contemporary business world. Drawing on the culture-as-situated-cognition theory, we investigate how language affects divergent thinking. We study multicultural bilinguals (Arabs in Israel) whose two languages reflect contrasting cultural mindsets: individualism (Hebrew) versus collectivism (Arabic). Theoretically, individualism is associated with novel thinking as it encourages autonomy of thought and action, whereas collectivism encourages compliance to social norms. We investigate the impact of language as a factor that may affect performance in divergent thinking tasks through its associated cultural mindset, distinguishing this from the effects of the speaker’s proficiency in the language. We expected that individualism induced by language (in this case, Hebrew) would promote greater originality in tasks demanding high, but not moderate, levels of ingenuity. Study 1 (N = 163) induced competing cultural mindsets using two cultural primes—language and task instructions—in a divergent thinking task. As hypothesized, Hebrew was associated with greater originality (uniqueness of ideas) but not fluency (number of ideas); and this pattern is specific to language, not the cultural prime induced by task instructions. Study 2 (N = 137) confirmed that the effect is stronger in tasks calling for greater ingenuity. Implications for language management in organizations are discussed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)849-865
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
Issue number4
StatePublished - 4 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Psychological Association


  • creativity
  • cultural mindset
  • divergent thinking
  • individualism versus collectivism
  • multiculturals


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