The time course of emotion effects in first and second language processing: A cross cultural ERP study with German-Spanish bilinguals
Conrad, M., Recio, G., Jacobs, A.M. – 2011
To investigate whether second language processing is characterized by the same sensitivity to the emotional content of language – as compared to native language processing – we conducted an EEG study manipulating word emotional valence in a visual lexical decision task. Two groups of late bilinguals – native speakers of German and Spanish with sufficient proficiency in their respective second language - performed each a German and a Spanish version of the task containing identical semantic material: translations of words in the two languages.In contrast to theoretical proposals assuming attenuated emotionality of second language processing, the same pattern of results was consistently obtained regardless of the respective test language and its L1 or L2 status: ERP waves always reflected what has previously been found in studies investigating valence effects in native language processing: an early posterior negativity plus a late positive complex for words with positive or negative valence compared to neutral words. These results clearly suggest that the coupling between cognition and emotion does not qualitatively differ between L1 and L2 although latencies of respective effects differed about 50ms. Moreover, our results point to cultural differences concerning sensitivity to specific types of emotion: Strongest effects were observed in the data of native German speakers for the contrast between negative and neutral words, but between positive and neutral words for the native Spanish speakers – suggesting a differential negativity vs. positivity bias modulated by participants’ German vs. Spanish cultural background.