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Investigating bilingual memory organization through proactive interference

Lize Van der Linden (Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium), Wouter Duyck (Ghent University, Belgium), Marie-Pierre de Partz (Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium), & Arnaud Szmalec (Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium)


bilingualism; bilingual memory organization; cross-language interference

The extent to which bilingual memory is language (in)dependent remains a matter of scientific debate. In this study, we used the n-back recognition paradigm in order to obtain a better understanding of dual-language control in bilinguals’ memory. Therefore, we tested Dutch-French balanced bilinguals on several variants of a 2-back task involving so-called lure trials. In this task, participants are required to indicate whether a word matches the word that was presented 2 positions before (e.g., huis-vork-lamp-vork is an example of a 2-back match). In this 2-back procedure, lure trials are mismatch trials where the novel word matches the word that was presented just before the word in target 2-back position (e.g., the 2-back trial vork-fiets-lamp-vork).It has been demonstrated that 2-back recognition performance is interfered by such lure trials [1]. This lure interference effect is assumed to reflect a competition between familiarity matching and recollection in recognition memory. In the present study, we created a bilingual version of the 2-back paradigm, where half of the words were in the first language (L1) or the second language (L2). In a series of experiments, we observed comparable lure interference effects in both languages and more interestingly, we also found a cross-language lure interference effect (e.g.,fourchette-ezel-huis-vork) as well as interference from cross-language semantically related lures (e.g., couteau-ezel-huis-vork). We further also showed that cross-language interference only emerged when 2-back recognition was driven by recollection memory rather than by familiarity-matching. The implications of these findings for bilingual memory and for dual-language control more generally are discussed.



[1] Szmalec, A., Verbruggen, F., Vandierendonck, A., & Kemps, E. Control of interference during working memory updating. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 37(1):137-151, 2011.

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