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Emotion-memory effects in bilingual speakers: A levels-of-processing approach*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 July 2009

Istanbul University
Boston University
Address for correspondence: Catherine L. Caldwell-Harris, Psychology Department, Boston University, 64 Cummington St., Boston, MA 02215, USA


Emotion-memory effects occur when emotion words are more frequently recalled than neutral words. Bilingual speakers report that taboo terms and emotional phrases generate a stronger emotional response when heard or spoken in their first language. This suggests that the basic emotion-memory will be stronger for words presented in a first language. Turkish–English bilinguals performed a deep processing task (emotional-intensity rating) or shallow processing task (counting letter features) and two additional deep processing tasks (translation and word association) on five categories of words (taboo words, reprimands, positive words, negative words, and neutral words), followed by a surprise recall task. Reprimands had the highest recall in English (L2), which may be a novelty effect. If reprimands are set aside, then overall emotion-memory effects were similar in the two languages, with taboo words having the highest recall, followed by positive words. Negative words had no recall advantage over neutral words, an unexpected finding. Results indicate that emotional attributes of words are equally available to boost memory in a first and second language in both shallow and deep processing tasks, athough some task-specific effects did occur.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2009

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This work was supported by the Research Fund of the University of Istanbul, Project Number: UDP-232/26022004.


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