Emotional Lexical Processing in Advanced Dutch-English Bilinguals

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The present study investigated whether a difference can be observed in the amount of interference Dutch-English bilinguals experience from negative emotion words in their first language, Dutch, and their second language, English, compared to neutral words. Even though lexical processing has been investigated extensively, the processing of emotion words in bilinguals has been understudied, especially when it comes to Dutch-English bilinguals. Advanced Dutch learners of English participated in a bilingual emotional Stroop task in these two languages. The results suggested that the participants did not experience greater interference effects of emotion in Dutch than in English. The present study therefore provides evidence against the popular hypothesis that emotions are perceived most strongly in one’s first language. As the participants included in the study were proficient speakers of both languages, the study also suggests that proficiency plays an important role in determining whether effects of language on emotional perceptions become visible. Therefore, further research might be conducted into the precise role of proficiency within the field of bilingual emotional processing.
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