Conditional Promises and Threats in Germany, China, and Tonga: Cognition and Emotion

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture


Conditional promises and threats are speech acts that aim at changing another person's behavior according to one's own goals. They combine several components on different levels: goals and incentives/penalties on the motivational level, formulations on the linguistic level, obligations on the deontic level, action sequences on the behavioral level, and affective responses on the emotional level. In a cross-cultural study – comparing Germany, China, and the Kingdom of Tonga – we examined the extent to which the cognitive understanding of conditional promises and threats on the various levels is shared across cultures. The results support conceptual universality, but also show that the different components are specifically affected by cultural conventions and values that shape communication styles, moral rules, and attribution tendencies.

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