Skip to main content Accessibility help

Is retrieval-induced forgetting behind the bilingual disadvantage in word production?*



Levy, Mc Veigh, Marful and Andreson (2007) found that naming pictures in L2 impaired subsequent recall of the L1 translation words. This was interpreted as evidence for a domain-general inhibitory mechanism (RIF) underlying first language attrition. Because this result is at odds with some previous findings and theoretical assumptions, we wanted to assess its reliability and replicate the experiment with various groups. Participants were first shown drawings along with their labels in the non-dominant language. Afterwards, they named 75% of these drawings in their first language or in their non-dominant language. Finally, participants’ memory of all L1 words was tested through the presentation of a rhyme-cue. Recall of L1 words was better after naming pictures in the non-dominant language compared to when the picture was not named at all. This result suggests that speaking a second language protects rather than harms the memory of our first language.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Albert Costa, Departamento de Tecnologia, ICREA, Universitat de Pompeu Fabra, C/Tanger, 122–140, 08018 Barcelona, Spain


Hide All

This research was supported by three grants from the Spanish Government (SEJ 2005/SEJ2005–01223/CONSOLIDER-INGENIO) and grants PSIC, PSI2008-00464/PSIC and SGR “2009–1521”. Elin Runnqvist was supported by a Pre-doctoral fellowship from the Catalan Government (FI). The authors are grateful to Kristof Strijkers, Dr. Clara Martin, Dr. David Green, Dr. René Zeelenberg and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on previous versions of this manuscript.



Hide All
Anderson, M. C., Bjork, E. L., & Bjork, R. A. (2000). Retrieval-induced forgetting: Evidence for a recall-specific mechanism. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 7, 522530.
Anderson, M. C., & McCulloch, K. C. (1999). Integration as a general boundary condition on retrieval-induced forgetting. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 25, 608629.
Anderson, M. C., Green, C., & McCulloch, K. C. (2000). Similarity and inhibition in long-term memory: Evidence for a two-factor model. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 26, 11411159.
Anderson, M. C., & Spellman, B. A. (1995). On the status of inhibitory mechanisms in cognition: Memory retrieval as a model case. Psychological Review, 102, 68100.
Barnhardt, T. M., Glisky, E. L., Polster, M. R., & Elam, L. (1996). Inhibition of associates and activation of synonyms in the rare-word paradigm: Further evidence for a center-surround mechanism. Memory & Cognition, 24, 6069.
Bauml, K., & Hartinger, A. (2002). On the role of item similarity in retrieval-induced forgetting. Memory, 10, 215224.
Bialystok, E., Craik, F., & Luk, G. (2008). Cognitive control and lexical access in younger and older bilinguals. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 34 (4), 859873.
Camp, G., Pecher, D., & Schmidt, H. G. (2007) No retrieval-induced forgetting using item-specific independent cues: Evidence against a general inhibitory account. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 33 (5), 950958.
Carr, T. H., & Dagenbach, D. C. (1990). Semantic priming and repetition priming from masked words: Evidence for a center-surround attentional mechanism in perceptual recognition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 16, 341350.
Chan, J. C. K. (2009). When does retrieval induce forgetting and when does it induce facilitation? Implications for retrieval inhibition, testing effect, and text processing. Journal of Memory and Language, 61, 153170.
Chan, J. C. K., McDermott, K. B., & Roediger, H. L. III (2006). Retrieval-induced facilitation: Initially nontested material can benefit from prior testing of related material. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 135, 533571.
Ciranni, M. A., & Shimamura, A. P. (1999). Retrieval-induced forgetting in episodic memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 25, 14031414
Costa, A., & Caramazza, A. (1999). Is lexical selection in bilingual speech production language-specific? Further evidence from Spanish–English and English–Spanish bilinguals. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 2 (3), 231244.
Costa, A., Miozzo, M., & Caramazza, A. (1999). Lexical selection in bilinguals: Do words in the bilingual's two lexicons compete for selection? Journal of Memory and Language, 41, 365397.
Francis, W. S., Augustini, B. K., & Saenz, S. P. (2003). Repetition priming in picture naming and translation depends on shared processes and their difficulty: Evidence from Spanish–English bilinguals. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 29, 12831297.
Gollan, T. H., Fennema-Notestine, C., Montoya, R. I., & Jernigan, T. L. (2007). The bilingual effect on Boston Naming Test performance. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 13, 197208.
Gollan, T. H., Montoya, R. I., Cera, C., & Sandoval, T. C. (2008). More use almost always means a smaller frequency effect: Aging, bilingualism, and the weaker links hypothesis. Journal of Memory and Language, 58, 787814.
Gollan, T. H., Montoya, R. I., Fennema-Notestine, C., & Morris, S. K. (2005). Bilingualism affects picture naming but not picture classification. Memory & Cognition, 33, 12201234.
Gollan, T. H., Montoya, R. I., & Werner, G. (2002). Semantic and letter fluency in Spanish–English bilinguals. Neuropsychology, 16, 562576.
Green, D. W. (1986). Control, activation and resource. Brain and Language, 27, 210223.
Green, D. W. (1998). Mental control of the bilingual lexico-semantic system. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 1 (2), 6781.
Griffin, Z. M., & Bock, K. (1998). Constraint, word frequency, and the relationship between lexical processing levels in spoken word production. Journal of Memory and Language, 38, 313338.
Ivanova, I., & Costa, A. (2008). Does bilingualism hamper lexical access in speech production? Acta Psychologica, 127, 277288.
Köpke, B. (2007). Language attrition at the crossroads of brain, mind, and society. In Köpke, B., Schmid, M. S., Keijzer, M. & Dostert, S. (eds.), Language attrition: Theoretical perspectives, 937. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Köpke, B., & Schmid, M. S. (2004). Language attrition: The next phase. In Schmid, M. S. Köpke, B. Keijzer, M. & Weilemar, L. (eds.), First language attrition: Interdisciplinary perspective on methodological issues, pp. 143. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Kroll, J. F., Bobb, S. C., Misra, M., & Guo, T. (2008). Language selection in bilingual speech: Evidence for inhibitory processes. Acta Psychologica, 128, 416430.
Kroll, J. F., & Stewart, E. (1994). Category interference in translation and picture naming: Evidence for asymmetric connections between bilingual memory representations. Journal of Memory and Language, 33, 149174.
Lee, M. W., & Williams, J. N. (2001). Lexical access in spoken word production by bilinguals: Evidence from the semantic competitor priming paradigm. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 4 (3), 233248.
Levy, B. J., & Anderson, M. C. (2002). Inhibitory processes and the control of memory retrieval. Trends in Cognitive Science, 6, 299305.
Levy, B. J., Mc Veigh, N., Marful, A., & Anderson, M. C. (2007). Inhibiting your native language: The role of retrieval-induced forgetting during second-language acquisition. Psychological Science, 18 (1), 2934.
Luo, L., Luk, G., & Bialystok, E. (2010). Effect of language proficiency and executive control on verbal fluency performance in bilinguals. Cognition, 114, 2941.
MacLeod, M. D., & Macrae, C. N. (2001). Gone but not forgotten: the transient nature of retrieval-induced forgetting. Psychological Science, 12, 148152.
Macrae, C. N., & MacLeod, M. D. (1999). On recollections lost: When practice makes imperfect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 463473.
Mahon, B. Z., Costa, A., Peterson, R., Vargas, K. A., & Caramazza, A. (2007). Lexical selection is not by competition: A reinterpretation of semantic interference and facilitation effects in the picture–word interference paradigm. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition, 33, 503535.
Sandoval, T. C., Gollan, T. H., Ferreira, V. S., & Salmon, D. P. (2010). What causes the bilingual disadvantage in verbal fluency? The dual-task analogy. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 13 (2), 231252.
Schmid, M. S. (2002). First language attrition, use and maintenance: The case of German Jews in anglophone countries. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Schmid, M. S. (2010). Languages at play: The relevance of L1 attrition to the study of bilingualism. In Schmid, M. S. (ed.), New perspectives on L1 attrition, Special Issue of Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 13 (1), 17.
Seliger, H. W., & Vago, R. M. (1991). The study of first language attrition: An overview. In Seliger, H. W. & Vago, R. M. (eds.), First language attrition, pp. 316. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Zeelenberg, R., & Pecher, D. (2003). Evidence for long-term crosslanguage repetition priming in conceptual implicit memory tasks. Journal of Memory and Language, 49, 8094.



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed