Brown Bag Talk by Dr. Lidia Suárez on 8 April


Speaker: Dr. Lidia Suárez

Title: Recognition Memory for New Characters and Words by Bilinguals with Different Writing Systems

Date: Wednesday April 8, 12-1pm

Venue: AS4/02-08 (Psychology Department Meeting Room)


Distinct orthographies demand and promote specific cognitive skills to a different extent. For example, greater visual memory ability has been associated with reading logographic languages (Tavassoli, 2002), and better phonological awareness with alphabetic languages (Rickard Liow, 2014). Moreover, studies have focused on how the use of different scripts affect the learning of new logographic words. For instance, Ehrich and Meuter (2009) found faster response latencies during new-character recognition by Chinese-English bilinguals as compared to English-French bilinguals. However, the bilinguals’ performance was equal regarding recognition accuracy and syntactic processing speed. Those results suggested that a logographic background might facilitate basic processes involved in character identification (e.g., visual speed and storage of visuospatial information) rather than higher-order processes involved in lexical access. The current study explored the influence of the use of different writing systems on basic processes of visual memory, and recognition memory of new characters and words. Participants were 243 English monolinguals and bilinguals literate in English and another alphabetic, alphasyllabic, or logographic language. The first hypothesis predicted that logographic users would show visuospatial memory enhancement and advantage at recognising new characters. Results showed that logographic users performed better than the average of the other three groups in visuospatial memory tasks. However, memory recognition for characters was similar. This suggests that experience in reading Chinese might facilitate rapid processing and storage in short-term memory, but not long-term memory. The second hypothesis compared biscriptal bilinguals (English-Chinese and English-Tamil [or Hindi]) in order to understand whether memory enhancement could be related to the use of Chinese or the use of two scripts. The results revealed that greater memory and character-learning performance were associated with the use of Chinese and not alphasyllabic language. Thus, it could be that experience with alphasyllabic script might have prompted the participants to use inadequate strategies when learning new character-like forms. The third hypothesis tested bilinguals’ learning facilitation of new spoken words. The results showed that bilinguals’ new-word recognition response latencies and accuracies were higher than the monolinguals’. This supports previous findings that relate bilinguals’ enhanced phonological capacity to a broad phonological repertoire stored in long-term memory.

About the Speaker:

Lidia Suárez is a senior lecturer of Psychology and registered research supervisor at James Cook University. She received her M.Soc.Sci. and Ph.D. from the National University of Singapore. Her research interests include bilingualism, psycholinguistics, second language acquisition, linguistic relativity, and word recognition. Lidia is a member of the Language Research Centre at the Cairns Institute, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Society for the Teaching of Psychology. She also collaborates with researchers from the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (A*STAR), and is a consultant for the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) in Singapore. She has published her work in journals such as Psychonomic Bulletin and Review and Memory and Cognition.


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