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Non-selective language activation and its impact on the representation of gender during reading comprehension among bilinguals

Applicant Sato Sayaka
Number 161712
Funding scheme Early Postdoc.Mobility
Research institution Department of Linguistics and Modern English Language University of Lancaster
Institution of higher education Institution abroad - IACH
Main discipline Psychology
Start/End 01.09.2015 - 28.02.2017
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Keywords (8)

gender representation; non-selective language activation; reading comprehension; mental representation; bilingualism; gender stereotypes; grammatical gender; cognates

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Les études examinant le mécanisme de la compréhension d’un texte montrent que les lecteurs supposent immédiatement un sexe spécifique lorsqu’ils lisent un nom de métier (p.ex. infirmiers). Ces études suggèrent que la compréhension dans des langues qui n’ont pas la marque grammaticale de genre (p.ex. l’anglais) résulte de représentations qui sont basées sur les stéréotypes (p. ex. nurses [infirmiers] est associé avec le genre féminin). En revanche, la compréhension dans les langues qui possèdent la marque grammaticale de genre (p.ex. le français) résulte dans une représentation plus masculine, provoquée par la forme masculine utilisée de manière générique (p.ex. un groupe composé que par des hommes, par des hommes et des femmes, ou lorsque c’est inconnu). Ces tendances divergentes étaient analysées chez des bilingues et qui montrent que les biais de genre peuvent changer en fonction de la langue utilisée. Ce projet vise à mieux comprendre les mécanismes sous-jacents à ce phénomène.
Lay summary

Les théories de la compréhension bilingue suggèrent que lorsqu’un-e bilingue lit un cognate (c.-à-d. les mots similaires dans deux langues comme doctoranglais et docteurfrançais) dans une des leurs langues, ce paire est fortement activé au même temps. Ceci indique que les biais de genre associés à cette paire de mots sont aussi activés simultanément. Ce projet prévoit de réaliser une étude de cas approfondie de ce processus de co-activation en effectuant quatre expériences empiriques. En particulier, il examinera les cognates de noms de métier en anglais et en français (dont la structure de la langue diffère) par rapport à l’activation des biais de genre pendant, d’une part la compréhension des mots et, d’autre part celles des phrases entières. Pour ce faire le projet proposera des méthodologies différentes, comme les tâches d’évaluation lexicale et les tâches avec eye-tracking.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 13.09.2015

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Publications

Publication
Grammatical gender affects gender perception: Evidence for the structural-feedback hypothesis
Sato Sayaka, Athanasopoulos Panos (2018), Grammatical gender affects gender perception: Evidence for the structural-feedback hypothesis, in Cognition, 176, 220-231.
Shifting representation biases in bilinguals: A case of gender information in English and French
Sato Sayaka, Gygax Pascal (2016), Shifting representation biases in bilinguals: A case of gender information in English and French, in Special Issue: 31st International Congress of Psychology, 24–29 July 2016, Yokohama, Japan, Wiley, New York.

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Seminar for the Second Language Learning and Teaching Research Group Individual talk Shifting the perception of gender: The representation of gender information during bilingual on-line reading 23.11.2016 Lancaster, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Sato Sayaka;
31st International Congress of Psychology 2016 Talk given at a conference Shifting representation biases in bilinguals: A case of gender information in English and French 24.07.2016 Yokohama, Japan Sato Sayaka;
The 14th Congress of the Swiss Psychological Society Poster Activating gender inferences in the absence of human reference role noun cues 08.09.2015 Geneva, Switzerland Sato Sayaka;


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
171453 Language influences thought: Top-down influences of language on categorical perception 01.03.2017 Advanced Postdoc.Mobility
171454 Language influences thought: Top-down influences of language on categorical perception 01.03.2018 Return CH Advanced Postdoc.Mobility

Abstract

Recent studies investigating the construction of mental models during reading comprehension processes have shown that readers spontaneously represent gender information even when it is not necessary for local coherence. Within these studies, researchers have demonstrated that readers activate specific gender biases based on their gender stereotypes that originate from their world knowledge (e.g., Banaji & Hardin, 1996; Oakhill, Garnham, & Reynolds, 2005) as well as grammatical information among grammatical gender language readers (e.g., Garnham, Gabriel, Sarrasin, Gygax, & Oakhill, 2012; Gygax & Gabriel, 2008; Gygax, Gabriel, Sarrasin, Oakhill, & Garnham, 2008; Irmen, 2007). Particularly, reading human reference role nouns (e.g., chirurgiens [surgeons]), in a grammatical gender language like French has been shown to trigger representations that are male biased which are brought about by the default usage of the masculine form, whereas reading in English has shown to trigger only stereotypical biases in readers’ representations. Taking into account the representational differences in the two language types, these findings were recently extended to a bilingual sample by Sato (2014) giving rise to the fact that gender representation biases were subject to change according to the bilingual’s language profile (e.g., what first [L1] and second [L2] languages, L2 proficiency, etc.) as well as the language at use for comprehension. However, in view of bilingual processing research suggesting that bilinguals co-activate both of their languages even when only one language is at active use (e.g., Schwartz & Kroll, 2007), the mechanisms underlying gender representation for bilinguals in terms of non-selective language activation is yet to be investigated. This study is hence directed towards further exploring the mechanisms and conditions in which gender information is represented among bilinguals, in terms of (a) how different facets of gender information (i.e., grammatical gender and stereotypical gender) interact during the course of reading to facilitate the activation of specific gender biases among bilinguals, and (b) how non-selective activation in bilinguals may result in a reinforcement or attenuation of specific gender-biases. Following common practice in bilingual language research, the experiments of this study take English-French cognate nouns which share similar meaning and forms between two languages (e.g., politicians / politiciens) to investigate whether non-selective activation will result in activating relevant gender biases that are associated to the non-used language among English-French bilinguals. The set of experiments in the present study implement the gender match-mismatch paradigm commonly used in gender representation research (e.g., Carreiras, Garnham, Oakhill, & Cain, 1996; Gygax et al., 2008; Oakhill et al., 2005) adapting them to different experimental methods such as the facial judgment task (Sato, 2014) and eye-tracking methodology in both lexical based and sentence based experiments. In sum, English-French will be investigated as to how processing of cognate role nouns will impact the male bias that is activated when reading French role nouns, given the possible non-selective language activation which may activate gender biases associated to English.
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