Self-bias and the emotionality of foreign languages
Griffin, Kim L.
Duñabeitia, Jon Andoni
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Ivaz, L., Griffin, K. L., & Duñabeitia, J. A. (2019). Self-bias and the emotionality of foreign languages. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 72(1), 76–89. https://doi.org/10.1177/1747021818781017
Foreign language contexts impose a relative psychological and emotional distance in bilinguals. In our previous studies, we demonstrated that the use of a foreign language changes the strength of the seemingly automatic emotional responses in the self-paradigm, showing a robust asymmetry in the self-bias effect in a native and a foreign language context. Namely, larger effects were found in the native language, suggesting an emotional blunting in the foreign language context. In the present study, we investigated the source of these effects by directly comparing whether they stem from a language’s foreignness versus its non-nativeness. We employed the same self-paradigm (a simple perceptual matching task of associating simple geometric shapes with the labels “you,” “friend,” and “other”), testing unbalanced Spanish–Basque–English trilinguals. We applied the paradigm to three language contexts: native, non-native but contextually present (i.e., non-native local), and non-native foreign. Results showed a smaller self-bias only in the foreign language pointing to the foreign-language-induced psychological/emotional distance as the necessary prerequisite for foreign language effects. Furthermore, we explored whether perceived emotional distance towards foreign languages in Spanish–English bilinguals modulates foreign language effects. Results suggest that none of the different indices of emotional distance towards the foreign language obtained via questionnaires modulated the self-biases in the foreign language contexts. Our results further elucidate the deeply rooted and automatic nature of foreign-language-driven differential emotional processing.