Language experience modifies the processing of visual input


The current study examined whether language experience affects the processing of visual information. Spanish-English bilinguals and English monolinguals completed a visual search task in which no overt linguistic information was provided. Participants were shown an image of a target (e.g., a chair) and were asked to locate that object from an array of four images while their eye-movements were tracked. English Competitor trials contained an item whose English name overlapped phonologically with the English name of the target (e.g., chair-chain); Spanish Competitor trials contained an item whose Spanish name overlapped phonologically with the Spanish name of the target (e.g., silla-silbato [chair-whistle]). Whereas all participants looked more often at English Competitor items than at items that did not overlap phonologically with the target, only the Spanish-English bilinguals looked more often at Spanish Competitor items. Results suggest that speakers with different language backgrounds vary in how they respond to non-linguistic, visual information.

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