ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2014, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (3): 331-340.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2014.00331

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Impact of Primed Language on Chinese-English Bilinguals’ Scene Consistency Judgment

WANG Juan;ZHANG Jijia   

  1. (1 School of Education Science, Jiangsu Normal University, Xuzhou 221116, China) (2 Department of Psychology, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China)
  • Received:2012-12-18 Published:2014-03-25 Online:2014-03-25
  • Contact: ZHANG Jijia


Researchers have highlighted the relations among language, culture and thinking for a long time and there have been two viewpoints including Universalism and Relativism concerning this topic. Universalism assumes that we comprehend, produce and learn language using the same cognitive mechanisms. Relativism by Sapir-Whorf hypothesis assumes that language affect cognition. Researchers have found a large body of evidences supporting Sapir-Whorf hypothesis such as color categorization, spatial reasoning, temporal comparisons, and grammatical gender. Language is an important factor that may influence how we reason about the world, or even how we perceive it. The differences of English and Chinese mainly reflect in word order when scene is expressed. Do structural differences of language lead to differentiation of scenery cognition? What is the mechanism if languages can lead subjects to process scenes differently? To investigate the above problems may help to furthering the research on the relationships of language, culture and thinking, as well as providing evidence for the impact of language on cognition. Eye movement experiment was used to investigate the impact of primed language on Chinese-English bilinguals’ scene processing. A total of 20 college students (7 males and 13 females) were participated in this study. 2 (language style) × 3 (picture-text consistency relations) design was used. Language style contained Chinese and English, picture-text consistency relations contained three types including consistency condition, foreground object inconsistency condition and background information inconsistency condition. The materials included 48 pictures and 96 primed phrases (48 Chinese phrases and 48 English phrases respectively). Among the 48 pairs of picture-text materials, there were 16 pairs sharing the same meaning between the contents of pictures and the meaning of primed phrases; the meaning of 16 primed phrases were different from the contents of pictures which was mainly reflected in the foregrounds; the meaning of 16 primed phrases were different from the contents of pictures which was mainly reflected in the backgrounds. At the beginning of the experiment, primed phrases of English or Chinese were presented, and then subjects were asked to judge the consistency relations of pictures-text pairs under Chinese and English primed conditions. The results showed that primed phrases influenced bilinguals’ scene processing. Significant differences occurred on several eye movement index under the English and Chinese conditions such as the fixation duration, the fixation duration in objects, the fixation duration in backgrounds, the number of fixations in backgrounds, and the average fixation duration. The proportion of fixations to object across 14 fixations under English and Chinese primed language were depicted, which showed that in English priming condition, the backgrounds obtained extra and fast attention due to the postposition of backgrounds’ information in word order. Under the Chinese condition, the transfer from foregrounds to backgrounds was late and the watching proportion was few. These differences were related to not only the properties of languages but also the depth of processing. Features of eye movement were also influenced by depth of processing. The conclusions were derived from this study:(1) Foreground objects were highlighted in picture-text consistency judgment regardless of Chinese condition or English condition. (2) Language structures affected the properties of eye movements. (3) The depth of processing affected bilinguals’ scene perception.

Key words: primed language, Chinese-English bilinguals, scene perception, eye movement