Bilingual language control: Bottom-up versus top-down
Bilinguals’ language control mechanisms are well-researched and modelled. An overlooked aspect of their environment, however, is the language context. This research study asks whether context (bottom-up influence) may impact effortful language control mechanisms (top-down control). The present research tests the hypothesis that context can affect top-down language control, and that the extent of these effects are context-dependent, by manipulating auditory language distractors in a picture-naming paradigm with no cued language-switching. This was a departure from the norm of cueing a bilingual to switch languages in order to evidence a proposed language control mechanism. In short, participants heard brief, trial-length audio distractors while engaged in English-only picture-naming. The distractor languages varied per block and were Hungarian, English, Spanish, and Mixed (English and Spanish distractor trials randomly dispersed throughout the block). By removing any cued language-switching (topdown switching) and only changing the context (using auditory distractors), the results yielded can be attributed to the impact of changing bottom-up influence. In the end, the results did not support the hypotheses presented—image-naming response times did not differ significantly between contexts. However, results may suggest that while the immediate effects of a change in context are consistent, the lasting effects may differ from context to context. A number of measures of individual differences significantly influenced these results as well, including cognitive control abilities and English proficiency. While these results do support the view that context matters, future studies are needed to better elucidate the way in which it does or does not matter.