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Psychon Bull Rev. 2007 Oct;14(5):925-33.

Language context guides memory content.

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Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208-3570, USA.


The relationship between language and memory was examined by testing accessibility of general knowledge across two languages in bilinguals. Mandarin-English speakers were asked questions such as "name a statue of someone standing with a raised arm while looking into the distance" and were more likely to name the Statue of Liberty when asked in English and the Statue of Mao when asked in Mandarin. Multivalent information (i.e., multiple possible answers to a question) and bivalent information (i.e., two possible answers to a question) were more susceptible to language dependency than univalent information (i.e., one possible answer to a question). Accuracy of retrieval showed language-dependent memory effects in both languages, while speed of retrieval showed language-dependent memory effects only in bilinguals' more proficient language. These findings suggest that memory and language are tightly connected and that linguistic context at the time of learning may become integrated into memory content.

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