Immigration, language proficiency, and autobiographical memories: Lifespan distribution and second-language access
This investigation examined two controversies in the autobiographical literature: how cross-language immigration affects the distribution of autobiographical memories across the lifespan and under what circumstances language-dependent recall is observed. Both Spanish/English bilingual immigrants and English monolingual non-immigrants participated in a cue word study, with the bilingual sample taking part in a within-subject language manipulation. The expected bump in the number of memories from early life was observed for non-immigrants but not immigrants, who reported more memories for events surrounding immigration. Aspects of the methodology addressed possible reasons for past discrepant findings. Language-dependent recall was influenced by second-language proficiency. Results were interpreted as evidence that bilinguals with high second-language proficiency, in contrast to those with lower second-language proficiency, access a single conceptual store through either language. The final multi-level model predicting language-dependent recall, including second-language proficiency, age of immigration, internal language, and cue word language, explained ¾ of the between-person variance and 1/5 of the within-person variance. We arrive at two conclusions. First, major life transitions influence the distribution of memories. Second, concept representation across multiple languages follows a developmental model. In addition, the results underscore the importance of considering language experience in research involving memory reports.
Esposito, Alena G. and Baker-Ward, Lynne, "Immigration, language proficiency, and autobiographical memories: Lifespan distribution and second-language access" (2016). Psychology. 278.