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Mem Cognit. 2012 Apr;40(3):496-503. doi: 10.3758/s13421-011-0163-3.

Bilingual recognition memory: stronger performance but weaker levels-of-processing effects in the less fluent language.

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Department of Psychology, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX 79968, USA.


The effects of bilingual proficiency on recognition memory were examined in an experiment with Spanish-English bilinguals. Participants learned lists of words in English and Spanish under shallow- and deep-encoding conditions. Overall, hit rates were higher, discrimination greater, and response times shorter in the nondominant language, consistent with effects previously observed for lower frequency words. Levels-of-processing effects in hit rates, discrimination, and response time were stronger in the dominant language. Specifically, with shallow encoding, the advantage for the nondominant language was larger than with deep encoding. The results support the idea that memory performance in the nondominant language is impacted by both the greater demand for cognitive resources and the lower familiarity of the words.

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