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Slide Slam K10

Not in a bilingual mood: Reduced effects of mood on semantic integration in the non-native language

Slide Slam Session K, Thursday, October 7, 2021, 6:00 - 8:00 am PDT Log In to set Timezone

Marcin Naranowicz1, Katarzyna Jankowiak1, Katarzyna Bromberek-Dyzman1, Guillaume Thierry1,2; 1Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, 2Bangor University

Introduction: Neurophysiological research has pointed to a dampened sensitivity to negative stimuli in the non-native (L2) relative to the native language (L1) (e.g., Wu & Thierry, 2012; Jończyk et al., 2016). Interestingly, accumulating evidence concerning L1 processing has also revealed that semantic processes may be greatly influenced by one’s mood – an unobtrusive, slowly-changing, and low-intensity affective background states (e.g., Chwilla et al., 2011). Yet, the role of positive and negative moods on language comprehension in the bilingual context has thus far received little scholarly attention. Therefore, the current event-related potential (ERP) study aimed to determine whether and how lab-induced positive and negative moods modulate semantic integration processes in Polish (L1) – English (L2) bilingual speakers when processing their L1 vs. L2. Methods: Eighteen high-proficient unbalanced late Polish–English bilinguals participated in the study (all females) and performed a semantic decision task to 180 emotionally neutral sentences in each language. Each sentence included a critical word in a mid-sentence position, semantically congruent or incongruent with their sentential contexts (e.g., These houses were transformed into country mansions/lobsters permanently, respectively). A positive and a negative mood were evoked via 14 affectively evocative, animated film clips in each mood condition. Electroencephalography was employed to continuously record participants’ brain activity while reading the sentences in-between watching the film clips. Results: In the 600–800 ms time window, in the positive mood condition, we found an increased late positive complex (LPC) (i.e., a neural marker of semantic integration and re-analysis) response to meaningless compared to meaningful sentences, irrespective of the language of operation. In contrast, in the negative mood condition, we found an increased LPC response to L2 compared to L1 meaningful sentences, with no such a between-language difference for meaningless sentences. Discussion: The present study, therefore, offers novel evidence on bilingual language comprehension, revealing that L2 semantic integration may remain unaffected by potentially adverse effects of a negative mood. This is consistent with previous studies showing a decreased sensitivity to negative content in L2 (e.g., Jończyk et al., 2016). As proposed by Wu & Thierry (2012), this may relate to cognitive prevention, involuntarily activating a suppression mechanism upon encountering a potentially upsetting stimulus in L2, thereby inhibiting full spreading of activation through the semantic network. References: (1) Chwilla, D. J., Virgillito, D., & Vissers, C. Th. W. M. (2011). The Relationship of Language and Emotion: N400 Support for an Embodied View of Language Comprehension. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23(9), 2400–2414. (2) Jończyk, R., Boutonnet, B., Musiał, K., Hoemann, K., & Thierry, G. (2016). The bilingual brain turns a blind eye to negative statements in the second language. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 16(3), 527–540. (3) Wu, Y. J., & Thierry, G. (2012). How Reading in a Second Language Protects Your Heart. Journal of Neuroscience, 32(19), 6485–6489.

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