Perceiving and remembering events cross-linguistically: Evidence from dual-task paradigms

What role does language play during attention allocation in perceiving and remembering events? We recorded adults‟ eye movements as they studied animated motion events for a later recognition task. We compared native speakers of two languages that use different means of expressing motion (Greek and English). In Experiment 1, eye movements revealed that, when event encoding was made difficult by requiring a concurrent task that did not involve language (tapping), participants spent extra time studying what their language treats as the details of the event. This „linguistic encoding‟ effect was eliminated both when event encoding was made easier (no concurrent task) and when the concurrent task required the use of language (counting aloud). In Experiment 2, under conditions of a delayed concurrent task of counting aloud, participants used language covertly just prior to engaging in the additional task. Together, the results indicate that language can be optionally recruited for encoding events, especially under conditions of high cognitive load. Yet, these effects are malleable and flexible and do not appear to shape core biases in event perception and memory.
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