Butler Journal of Undergraduate Research

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Tara Lineweaver


Past research examining the effects of emotion on memory has documented that individuals find material more memorable when the emotional valence of the information is consistent with their mood state. While these mood-congruency effects have been applied to different contexts, one situation that has not been investigated is the effects of language on mood-congruency in bilinguals. This study explored mood-congruency effects in English and Spanish bilinguals by inducing a happy or sad mood and examining between-language and within-language memory for positive, neutral, or negative information. I investigated whether mood effects are consistent across languages or if the switch from one language to another reduces the mood-congruency effect. 110 bilingual undergraduate students listened to a happy or sad song in either English or Spanish and then completed a mood state questionnaire. Next, they heard a story that contained happy, neutral, and sad events in either the same or the opposite language and tried to recall the story details. I hypothesized that mood would impact the recall of emotional information when the languages of the song and story were consistent, but not in the cross-language conditions. Although mood congruency effects did not emerge in any of the conditions, results instead suggested that the effect of emotion on memory is language dependent. Participants who heard the Spanish story remembered positive and negative details better than neutral details while those who heard the story in English remembered sad details better than happy and neutral ones. Taken together, these results are consistent with the idea that, as proficiency in a second language increases, its representations in the brain gradually overlap with first language representations. However, my findings suggest that these language stores maintain separate connections to emotional structures, leading to different emotional memory effects in the two languages.