Memory & Cognition

, Volume 11, Issue 6, pp 565–574 | Cite as

Automatic and controlled processes in the first- and second-language reading of fluent bilinguals

  • Micheline Favreau
  • Norman S. Segalowitz


Many fluent bilinguals read their two languages with equal levels of comprehension but read their second language at a slower rate. The present study examined whether, compared with first language reading, slower second-language reading is associated with reduced involvement of automatic processing during lexical access. Subjects were bilinguals with fluent speaking and listening skills under ordinary conditions of communication and with equivalent comprehension of their first and second languages when reading and listening under speeded conditions. Half these subjects, however, read their first and second languages equally fast, and half read the second language more slowly than the first. Subjects were tested on a lexical decision task that manipulated expectations about the semantic relatedness of prime and target words and the stimulus onset asynchrony between them. Bilinguals with equal first- and second-language reading rates produced in each language a pattern of reaction times suggesting automatic processing, whereas bilinguals with a slower second-language reading rate did so in their first language but not in their second.


Target Word Lexical Decision Facilitation Effect Lexical Decision Task Reading Rate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Reference Notes

  1. 1.
    Daitchman, M.Reading and listening comprehension of fluent bilinguals in the native and second languages. Unpublished manuscript, Concordia University, Montreal, 1976.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Favreau, M., & Segalowitz, N.Semantic category norms for the French and English Quebec populations. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Psychological Association, Montreal, September 1980.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Beaudot, J.Fréquence d’usage des mots de la langue francaise. Unpublished manuscript, Université de Montreál, 1975.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Neisser, U.Skills, affordances, and divided attention. Address delivered to the Canadian Psychological Association, Montreal, June 1982.Google Scholar


  1. Antos, S. J. Processing facilitation in a lexicai decision task.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 1979,5, 527–545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baron, J., &Treiman, R. Some problems in the study of differences in cognitive processes.Memory & Cognition, 1980,8, 313–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Becker, C. A. Semantic context effects in visual word recognition: An analysis of semantic strategies.Memory & Cognition, 1980,8, 493–512.Google Scholar
  4. Britton, B. K., Piha, A., Davis, J., &Wehalissen, E. Reading and cognitive capacity usage: Adjunct question effects.Memory & Cognition, 1978,6, 266–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dornic, S. Language dominance, spare capacity and perceived effect in bilinguals.Ergonomics, 1980,23, 369–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Eisenberg, P., &Becker, C. Semantic context effects in visual word recognition, sentence processing, and reading: Evidence for semantic strategies.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 1982,8, 739–756.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Favreau, M., Komoda, M. K., &Segalowitz, N. Second language reading: Implications of the word superiority effect in skilled bilinguals.Canadian Journal of Psychology, 1980,4, 370–381.Google Scholar
  8. Favreau, M., &Segalowitz, N. Second language reading in fluent bilinguals.Applied Psycholinguistics, 1982,3, 329–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fischler, I. Associative facilitation without expectancy in a lexical decision task.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 1977,3, 18–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fischler, I., &Bloom, P. A. Automatic and attentional processes in the effects of sentence contexts on word recognition.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 1979,18, 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fischler, I., &Goodman, G. O. Latency of associative activation in memory.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 1978,4, 455–470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fowler, C. A., Wolford, G., Slade, R., &Tassinary, L. Lexical access with and without awareness.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 1981,110, 341–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gibson, E., &Levin, H.The psychology of reading. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1975.Google Scholar
  14. Hasher, L., &Zacks, R. T. Automatic and effortful processes in memory.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 1979,108, 356–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hatch, E., Polin, P., &Part, S. Acoustic scanning and syntactic processing: Three reading experiments with first and second language learners.Journal of Reading Behavior, 1974,6, 275–285.Google Scholar
  16. Hunt, E. Mechanics of verbal ability.Psychological Review, 1978,85, 109–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. James, C. T. The role of semantic information in lexical decisions.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 1975,1, 130–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kahneman, D.Attention and effort. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hail, 1973.Google Scholar
  19. Kučera, H., &Francis, W. N.Computational analysis of present-day American English. Providence, R.I: Brown University Press, 1967.Google Scholar
  20. LaBerge, D., &Samuels, S. J. Toward a theory of automatic information processing in reading.Cognitive Psychology, 1974,6, 293–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Massaro, D. W. Primary and secondary recognition in reading. In D. W. Massaro (Ed.),Understanding language: An information processing analysis of speech, reading, and psycholinguistics. New York: Academic Press, 1975.Google Scholar
  22. Meyer, D. E., &Schvaneveldt, R. W. Facilitation on recognizing pairs of words: Evidence of a dependence between retrieval operations.Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1971,90, 227–234.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Neely, J. H. Semantic priming and retrieval from lexical memory: Evidence for facilitatory and inhibitory processes.Memory & Cognition, 1976,4, 648–654.Google Scholar
  24. Neely, J. H. Semantic priming and retrieval from lexical memory: Roles of the inhibitionless spreading activation and limitedcapacity attention.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 1977,106, 226–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Oller, J. W., Jr., &Tullios, J. Reading skills of non-native speakers of English.International Review of Applied Linguistics, 1973,11, 69–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Posner, M. I., &Snyder, C. R. R. Attention and cognitive control. In R. C. Solso (Ed.),Information processing and cognition: The Loyola Symposium. Hillsdale, N.J: Erlbaum, 1975.Google Scholar
  27. Rayner, K. Eye movements in reading and information processing.Psychological Bulletin, 1978,85, 618–660.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Scarrorovgh, D. L., Cortese, C., &Scarborough, H. S. Frequency and repetition effects in lexical memory.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 1977,3, 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Schneider, W., &Shiffrin, R. M. Controlled and automatic processing: I. Detection, search and attention.Psychological Review, 1977,84, 1–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Schvaneveldt, R. W., &McDonald, J. E. Semantic context and the encoding of words: Evidence for two modes of stimulus analysis.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 1981,7,673–687.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Schvaneveldt, R. W., &Meyer, D. E. Retrieval and comparison processes in semantic memory. In S. Kornblum (Ed.),Attention and performance IV. New York: Academic Press, 1973.Google Scholar
  32. Shiffrin, R. M., Dumais, S., &Schneider, W. Characteristics of automatism. In L. Long & A. Baddeley (Eds.),Attention and performance IX. Hillsdale, N.J: Erlbaum, 1981.Google Scholar
  33. Shiffrin, R. M., &Schneider, W. Controlled and automatic processing: II. Perceptual learning, automatic attending and a general theory.Psychological Review, 1977,84, 127–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Stanovich, K. E. Toward an interactive-compensatory model of individual differences in the development of reading fluency.Reading Research Quarterly, 1980,16, 32–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Stanovich, K. E., West, R., &Feeman, D. A longitudinal study of sentence context effects in second-grade children: Tests of an interactive-compensatory model.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 1981,32, 185–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Tweedy, J. R., Lapinsky, R. H., &Schvaneveldt, R.W. Semantic-context effects on word recognition: Influence of varying the proportion of items presented in an appropriate context.Memory & Cognition, 1977,1, 84–89.Google Scholar
  37. West, R. F., &Stanovich, K. E. Automatic contextual facilitation in readers of three ages.Child Development, 1978,49, 717–727.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. West, R. F., &Stanovich, K. E. Source of inhibition in experiments on the effect of sentence context on word recognition.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 1982,8, 385–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Micheline Favreau
    • 1
  • Norman S. Segalowitz
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentConcordia UniversityMontrealCanada

Personalised recommendations