cSCAN Rounds

Pupillometry reveals reduced emotional resonance in bilinguals’ second language

Bilinguals often report ‘feeling less’ in their second (L2) as opposed to their first language (L1). This is called reduced emotional resonance of L2. Few studies to date have controlled for participants’ proficiency in L2, or variables affecting word recognition (e.g. length, frequency). This talk will summarise two experiments that we conducted to address these shortcomings and to test a new methodology of measuring reduced emotional resonance: pupillometry. In Experiment 1, we tested Finnish-English and German-English bilinguals both in their L1 and L2 to see whether there is a difference in pupillary response between the languages. Participants were shown high arousing, low arousing and neutral distractor word stimuli while their pupillary responses were monitored. Enhanced pupil dilation was found in response to high- vs. low- arousal words when participants were tested in their L1. There was no effect of word type in L2, suggesting reduced emotional resonance. In Experiment 2, English words were presented to a monolingual control group and bilingual participants from various language backgrounds in a similar paradigm to the one used in experiment 1. The reduced emotional resonance effect was successfully replicated – a smaller difference in pupillary response to high and low arousing words was found in the bilinguals as opposed to the monolinguals.