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Cross-language interference in bilingual working memory

By Lize Van der Linden, Arnaud Szmalec, Marie-Pierre de Partz de Courtray, Wouter Duyck and Psycholinguistics in Flanders 2014


The current study investigates whether bilingual language control is needed during working memory (WM) updating. Bilinguals experience cross-language interference during word production1. This requires a constant need for bilinguals to inhibit competitor words in the irrelevant language while speaking. We investigated whether bilingual language activation and the subsequent resolution of interference is also involved in updating lexical representations in WM. To this end, we tested Dutch-French bilinguals on 3 variants of the n-back WM updating paradigm. In the classic version, people are required to indicate whether a presented item in a list matches the item that was presented n positions before (e.g., F-B-L-B is an example of a 2-back match; F-G-L-B is an example of a 2-back mismatch). Crucial in this paradigm are the so-called lure trials, which are mismatch trials where a novel item matches the item that was presented just before or after the target n-back position (e.g., the 2-back trial B-G-L-B). Typically, it has been found that people are slower and make more errors on such trials due to proactive interference2. Szmalec and colleagues3 found 2-back lure effects not only with identical items, but also with semantically related items. They instructed participants to perform a 2-back task with words and they introduced semantic lures (e.g., fork-donkey-house-knife) that yielded clear semantic lure effects. In the present study, we created a bilingual version of the n-back paradigm. In experiment 1, half of the visually presented words were Dutch words, the other half French. Lure trials could be either in Dutch or French. In experiment 2, we added translated lure trials (e.g., fourchette-ezel-huis-vork) to investigate whether the activation of lexical items in memory is language selective or not. In experiment 3, we added semantic translated lure trials (e.g., couteau-ezel-huis-vork) to examine whether semantic lure effects can be found over languages. These findings are framed within the current debate about language selectivity of lexical access in bilinguals. 1Van Assche, E., Duyck, W., & Gollan, T.H. (2013). Whole-language and item-specific control in bilingual language production. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 39, 1781-1792. 2Oberauer, K. (2005). Binding and inhibition in working memory: Individual and age differences in short-term recognition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 134, 368-387. 3Szmalec, A., Verbruggen, F., Vandierendonck, A., & Kemps, E. (2011). Control of interference during working memory updating. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 37, 137-151

Topics: bilingualism, working memory, proactive interference, language control
Year: 2014
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Provided by: DIAL UCLouvain
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