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Poster D67

Using ERPs to investigate the effects of culture and language on memory in Mandarin-English bilinguals.

Poster Session D - Monday, April 15, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Caitlin O'Riordan1 (, Sarah Wang2, Thanujeni Pathman1, Ellen Bialystok1; 1York University, 2UC Davis

Bicultural bilinguals offer a unique lens through which to investigate the influence of culture and language on cognition. Previous work demonstrates that bilinguals experience joint activation of both languages, but the co-activation is influenced by cultural context in that it privileges words that refer to culturally salient concepts; a culturally-specific context will bias activation of the corresponding language. What is not known is whether these biases from cultural associations also impact later retrieval of words. The present study reports two experiments investigating the influence of culture and language on recognition and source memory while event-related potentials (ERP) are recorded. Participants in both experiments were young adult Mandarin-English bicultural bilinguals and the task was based on an old/new recognition paradigm. During encoding blocks, participants observed a stream of Mandarin and English items that were either culturally neutral or relevant to Chinese culture. In Experiment 1, the recognition block required participants to determine whether items were previously seen (Old) or entirely new (New), and in Experiment 2, participants determined whether items were presented in the same language (Old) or as translated equivalents of previously seen items (Translate). For Old items, culturally salient concepts presented in Mandarin elicited the highest recognition accuracy and smallest N400 amplitude. For New and Translate items, culturally salient concepts presented in English elicited the highest false alarm rates and largest N400 amplitudes. This suggests that cultural context biases activation of the congruent language label facilitating better memory for old items but introducing biases for new items.

Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Episodic


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April 13–16  |  2024