Previous research demonstrated that monolinguals and bilinguals process affective semantic meaning differently. Specifically, bilinguals repress negative content in their non-native language. This study used event-related potentials to examine whether or not a difference in negativity of the word effects how bilinguals process English content, when English is their non-native language. The prediction was that bilinguals compared to monolinguals would show a reduced amplitude in the N400 component, while processing high-negative as compared to neutral English words. Increasing negativity was predicted to show a greater difference in amplitude. Participants in this study responded to 144 congruent or incongruent English sentences, which all ended in a high-negative, low-negative, or neutral target word. Analyses on reaction time and accuracy demonstrated that monolinguals compared to bilinguals were overall faster and more accurate at responding to affective and incongruent/congruent lexical stimuli. N400 results were not different between participants, as they did not demonstrate a reduced amplitude in the bilingual brain. These findings demonstrate either that bilinguals did not repress any content as they were able to fully process affective stimuli, or that the set-up of this study did not produce the correct results. Further research could investigate how levels of positive valence may yield similar results, as well as how listening to sentences instead of reading may impact the N400 component.


Herzmann, Grit




Cognitive Psychology


language, bilingualism, semantic, affect, emotion, negative, ERP, N400

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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