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Language usage as a modulator of bilingual selective attention

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Poster B34 in Poster Session B, Tuesday, October 24, 3:30 - 5:15 pm CEST, Espace Vieux-Port
This poster is part of the Sandbox Series.

Stephen Theron-Grimaldi1, Dr Mirjana Bozic1; 1University of Cambridge - Department of Psychology

Bilingualism leads to significant adaptation of the neural mechanisms of selective attention (Olguin, Cekic, et al., 2019; Phelps, Attaheri & Bozic, 2022). Nevertheless, it remains unclear what are the key factors that influence this adaptation. The degree of usage of multiple languages has been shown to modulate cognitive control processes and language-related brain activity (Tu, Wang, et al., 2015; Verreyt, Woumans, et al., 2016), and we therefore predict that L2 usage will have a significant impact on the adaptation of the neural mechanisms of selective attention in bilinguals. The other key question concerns the dynamics of this adaptation. Biological systems adapt flexibly to their environments (Green, Crinion & Price, 2006; Navarro-Torres, Beatty-Martínez, et al., 2021), hence the degree of bilingual adaptation of selective attention is expected to depend on bilinguals’ language experience. More specifically, this suggests that bilingual adaptation changes over time, and might not be observed in bilinguals who stopped using their L2 actively. In the current study we investigate the neural adaptation of selective attention in proficient bilinguals who differ in the usage of their L2. Forty-six early English-French bilinguals took part in an EEG experiment. They were all highly proficient, but differed in their L2 usage to create 3 groups: High-usage, Low-usage, and No-usage. The participants performed a dichotic-listening task, where they were presented with two simultaneous speech streams and instructed to attend to one and ignore the other. The attended speech stream consisted of simple narratives either in participants’ L1 (English) or L2 (French), and the nature of the unattended stream was manipulated to create different types of linguistic or acoustic interference. Preliminary analyses of the neural encoding of the attended and the unattended streams in the three groups are currently being conducted, and will be presented at the conference. We predict that the High-usage bilinguals will show strong adaptation of their selective attention mechanisms, and be least affected by the nature of the unattended stream (following Olguin, Cekic, et al., 2019). Moreover, we predict this effect to be more robust than the adaptation in the Low-usage group of bilinguals, highlighting the importance of language usage. Finally, we expect that the No-usage bilinguals might be most affected by the nature of the unattended stimuli, thus displaying the response pattern most similar to that of monolinguals (Olguin, Bekinschtein & Bozic, 2018). This would suggest that bilingual adaptations are not static once acquired, and highlight the dynamic aspect of neuroplastic changes in the bilingual brain.

Topic Areas: Multilingualism, Control, Selection, and Executive Processes

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