Using Mouse Tracking to Investigate Auditory Taboo Effects in First and Second Language Speakers of American English

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Sara InceraORCID iD icon



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Researchers have argued that bilingual speakers experience less emotion in their second language. However, some studies have failed to find differences in emotionality between first and second language speakers. We used computer mouse tracking in an auditory lexical decision task to examine taboo effects – more efficient processing of taboo than neutral words – in first (L1) and second (L2) language speakers of American English. As predicted, we found an effect of language (L1 participants processed words more efficiently than L2 participants did) and a taboo effect (taboo words were processed more efficiently than neutral words). Interestingly, the language by taboo interaction (less emotionality in second language) emerged in number of errors and in the mouse trajectories, but it did not emerge in reaction times. We discuss how different aspects of participants’ responses are likely to capture different underlying cognitive processes. We conclude, as other researchers have reported and many bilinguals experience, that language processing in second language is less emotional.

Journal Title

Cognition and Emotion

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