Article

Memory & Cognition

, Volume 33, Issue 7, pp 1220-1234

Bilingualism affects picture naming but not picture classification

  • Tanar H. GollanAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of California Email author 
  • , Rosa I. MontoyaAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of CaliforniaVeterans Medical Research Foundation
  • , Christine Fennema-NotestineAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of CaliforniaVeterans Medical Research Foundation
  • , Shaunna K. MorrisAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of CaliforniaVeterans Medical Research Foundation

Abstract

Bilinguals named pictures in their dominant language more slowly (and with more errors) than did monolinguals. In contrast, bilinguals named the same pictures as quickly as did monolinguals on the fifth presentation (in Experiment 2) and classified them (ashuman made ornatural) as quickly and accurately as did monolinguals (in Experiment 1). In addition, bilinguals retrieved English picture names more quickly if they knew the name in both Spanish and English (on the basis of a translation test that bilinguals completed after the timed tasks), and monolingual response times for the same materials suggested that this finding was not obtained simply because names that were easier to translate were easier in general. These findings suggest that bilinguals differ from monolinguals at a postconceptual processing level, that implicit activation of lexical representations in the nontarget language can facilitate retrieval in the target language, and that being bilingual is analogous to having a lexicon full of lower frequency words, relative to monolinguals.