Testing asymmetries in noncognate translation priming: Evidence from RTs and ERPs


  • This research was supported by the Research Foundation–Flanders (F.W.O.-Vlaanderen), of which the first author is a research assistant, and a grant by the National Institute of Health, awarded to the second and third authors (HD 043251 and HD 25889). We thank Marianna Eddy, Courtney Brown, and especially Katherine Midgley for technical assistance and help with the setup of the ERP experiments.

Address correspondence to: Sofie Schoonbaert, Department of Experimental Psychology, Ghent University, Henri Dunantlaan 2, 9000 Ghent, Belgium. E-mail: Sofie.Schoonbaert@UGent.be


In this study, English–French bilinguals performed a lexical decision task while reaction times (RTs) and event related potentials (ERPs) were measured to L2 targets, preceded by noncognate L1 translation primes versus L1 unrelated primes (Experiment 1a) and vice versa (Experiment 1b). The prime–target stimulus onset asynchrony was 120 ms. Significant masked translation priming was observed, indicated by faster reaction times and a decreased N400 for translation pairs as opposed to unrelated pairs, both from L1 to L2 (Experiment 1a) and from L2 to L1 (Experiment 1b), with the latter effect being weaker (RTs) and less longer lasting (ERPs). A translation priming effect was also found in the N250 ERP component, and this effect was stronger and earlier in the L2 to L1 priming direction than the reverse. The results are discussed with respect to possible mechanisms at the basis of asymmetric translation priming effects in bilinguals.