Reduced emotional resonance in bilinguals’ L2: Potential causes, methods of measurement, and behavioural implications

Toivo, Taru Iris Wilhelmiina (2020) Reduced emotional resonance in bilinguals’ L2: Potential causes, methods of measurement, and behavioural implications. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Bilinguals often report feeling “less” in their second language (L2). While a speaker might be fully proficient in their L2, it may not feel the same as one’s L1 does; in some cases bilinguals feel like their L2 is more emotionally distant, or even fake. This phenomenon, called reduced emotional resonance of L2, has been studied using a number of different methodologies ranging from questionnaire-based approaches to physiological measurement of emotion. The field, while truly interdisciplinary, lacks consensus on measurement practices. This thesis aims to address some of the most prevalent methodological issues in studying reduced emotional resonance of L2, namely how the word stimuli should be selected and normed, and provide guidance to conducting studies with word stimuli.
This thesis presents six studies, which investigate the causes, measurement methods and implications of reduced emotional resonance in bilinguals’ L2. Chapter 2 focuses on the causes of reduced emotional resonance, and measures it with pupillometry. The potential causes of reduced emotional resonance are examined by trying to predict bilinguals’ physiological responses to emotional language from their language background information.
Chapters 3-5 focus on the methodological aspects of reduced emotional resonance. Chapter 3 attempts to contrast different physiological measurement techniques of emotion. Comparing pupillometry and skin-conductance measurement, the chapter points out differences in paradigm design and sensitivity of these two techniques. Chapter 4 investigates the reliability of cognitive paradigms as measures of bilingual emotion, points out the importance of including stimulus item covariates in both stimulus selection, as well as analysis stage, and discusses why the use of translation equivalents is problematic. In this chapter, we compare a Lexical Decision Task to a pupillometry task in bilinguals’ L1 vs. L2, and in bilinguals vs. monolinguals. Chapter 5 looks into metacognitive measurement and compares affective word ratings with a pupillometry task to establish whether physiological responses to, and conscious evaluations of emotional words are related.
Chapter 6 focuses on the behavioural implications of reduced emotional resonance of L2. Behavioural implications have typically been studied in the context of moral decision-making. Here, we expand this literature to attributions. Through two experiments, this chapter investigates whether Optimality bias (assigning more blame to actors who make suboptimal choices) will be mediated by the Foreign Language Effect. In other words, whether doing the experiment in one’s L2 will mitigate the Optimality bias.
Finally, chapter 7 discusses the key findings and common themes to stem from the experiments, as well as the limitations and potential future directions for the field. The main contribution of this thesis is to provide systematic, methodology-focused work on reduced emotional resonance in bilinguals’ L2, to point out methodological inconsistencies, and to provide more robust alternatives for stimulus selection processes and statistical analyses of bilingual data.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Chapter 6 has been published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural and Cognitive Psychology (Bodig, Toivo, and Scheepers, 2019): Investigating the foreign language effect as a mitigating influence on the ‘optimality bias’ in moral judgements. Journal of Cultural Cognitive Science, 1-15.
Keywords: bilingualism, emotions, pupillometry.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
Supervisor's Name: Scheepers, Dr. Christoph
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Dr Taru Iris Wilhelmiina Toivo
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81576
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 11 Aug 2020 10:37
Last Modified: 05 Oct 2022 16:03
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.81576
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