Parallel language activation and cognitive control during spoken word recognition in bilinguals

Henrike K. Blumenfeld*, Viorica Marian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Scopus citations


Accounts of bilingual cognitive advantages suggest an associative link between crosslinguistic competition and inhibitory control. We investigate this link by examining English-Spanish bilinguals' parallel language activation during auditory word recognition and nonlinguistic Stroop performance. Thirty-one English-Spanish bilinguals and 30 English monolinguals participated in an eyetracking study. Participants heard words in English (e.g., comb) and identified corresponding pictures from a display that included pictures of a Spanish competitor (e.g., conejo, English rabbit). Bilinguals with higher Spanish proficiency showed more parallel language activation and smaller Stroop effects than bilinguals with lower Spanish proficiency. Across all bilinguals, stronger parallel language activation between 300 and 500 ms after word onset and reduced parallel language activation between 633 and 767 ms after word onset were associated with smaller Stroop effects. Results suggest that bilinguals who perform well on the Stroop task show increased crosslinguistic competitor activation during early stages of word recognition and decreased competitor activation during later stages of word recognition. Findings support the hypothesis that crosslinguistic competition impacts domain-general inhibition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)547-567
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Cognitive Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2013


  • Bilingualism
  • Eyetracking
  • Inhibition
  • Parallel language activation
  • Stroop task

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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