A Blessing in Disguise: Flanking Words Can Cancel Language Switch Costs

Aaron Vandendaele, Nicoleta Prutean, Mathieu Declerck

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Prior research has shown that a sentence context can decrease the necessity for language control relative to single word processing. In particular, measures of language control such as language switch costs are reduced or even absent in a sentence context. Yet, this evidence is mainly based on bilingual language production and is far from straightforward. To further investigate this issue in the comprehension modality, we relied on the lexical flanker task, which is known to introduce sentence-like processing. More specifically, Dutch-English bilinguals (n = 68) performed a classification task in mixed language blocks on target words that were either presented alone or flanked by unrelated words in the same language. While overall no L1 switch costs were observed, we only observed L2 switch costs in the no-flanker condition. This pattern of results indicates that the presence of flankers can reduce or even abolish switch costs, suggesting that the language control process can benefit from sentence(-like) processing compared to single word processing.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Cognition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2024


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