July 2011 Archives

I Love Spain

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The past two weeks I was able to attend two more seminars.  Both were given by partners of the Psychology department here in Tarragona; there were two Galician women, a Portuguese woman and several individuals from Madrid.  I caught the second half of one of the Galician woman's presentations who was researching the effects of emotion showing smiley/non-smiley faces to participants and asking them to write down the emotion each portrayed.  The other was researching how English people versus Spanish people read a sentence. She showed us an example: El marido disparó al criado de la mujer que estaba en el balcón (the husband shot the servant of the woman that was on the balcony).  She would then ask questions like who was shot, the woman, or the servant.  Spanish speaking individuals would usually answer with the first person mentioned (so the servant) and English speaking people would usually answer the second (the woman).  I would have thought it was the servant who was shot -I guess that's what language immersion does to you! One of the Psychologists from Madrid was researching Conventionality and cognates in metaphors and literal statements and the way metaphors are processed in Spanish-English bilinguals.  This presentation was especially interesting to me because it had to do with code-switching!  He used the Boston Naming task to test language proficiency -just like me!  For the experiment he would present participants with metaphors and literal statements in both English and Spanish and ask them to determine whether it was a metaphor or literal statement.  He observed that there was a switch between the boundary between the subject and the predicate and that the reading time was more costly when read from the L1-L2 (greater when you have to inhibit your L1).  After he was finished he asked me about my code-switching research and asked a very interesting question that I had never thought of before:  would the results be different if the sentences I presented to my participants were in Spanish with a CS to English versus my English sentences I use with a CS to Spanish.  I would think not, but it made me curious to find out!

The past very days I have been running my last few participants, packing up my equipment and making sure I have all my files backed up.  I finished with a total of 46 participants.  I have started coding my cognitive tasks but have decided with Janet van Hell to wait to code my Code-Switching data until I get back to Penn State.  I'm sad to have to leave Spain, but excited to come back to Penn State, code my data and present my results!

que triste

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Last week we had the opportunity to learn about different aspects related with pyschology research in various seminars with women from around Spain and Portugual.  Not only did my psychology vocabulary expand, but my spanish did as well. 

I'm currently in the process of coding my Translation Recognition Data but as of right now, the data shows strong semantic effects, and a weak translation effect.  I am interested in looking into the differences between the SOA and the proficiency of the participants as well. 

It is our last week of running participants... we rounded up almost 50 individuals thanks to Rosa's relentless determination.  2 hours and 14 euros per each participant.  I don't know where the time went.  It feels as if we were just arriving here, trying to get our equipment to work and the tests to run smoothly.

Rachel and I were very fortunate to have this opportunity.  Not only did we learn about the research process and linguistics, but we grew as individuals as well. 


Never a Dull Moment...

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Lately, it seems as if the general activity level here in Beijing has increased even further.  The last two weeks have been packed with different tasks, projects, and adventures.  In a true collaborative effort, I have been learning fMRI data analysis from a tremendous BNU graduate student named Lijuan Zou (check out her most recently published paper in the journal, Cortex, titled "Structural plasticity of left Caudate in bimodal bilinguals").  At Dr. Li's suggestion, I have also been reading some literature on a possible project to be completed when I return to the U.S. relating to variations in Chinese-English bilingual mathematical processing.  It seems that Chinese-English bilinguals present an even more valuable population in neurological research than I originally thought! I have been asked to edit more of my new colleagues' papers for grammar and spelling, and I've been really enjoying getting the "first read" on their research. 

Week 6 in Beijing

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Dr. Michael Ullman from the Department of Neuroscience from Georgetown University visited Beijing Normal University last week. I attended his talk entitled "What Rats can tell us about Language: Contributions of Declarative and Procedural Memory to Language". He began with a general overview of the two memory systems, declarative and procedural memory. Declarative memory is the "what", and can be divided into episodic (personal experiences) and semantic memory (facts). Procedural memory is the "how" and is responsible for the learning and control of motor and cognitive skills. He emphasized some subtle differences between the two memory systems; speed of learning and retention. Declarative memory involves quick learning with a moderate retention rate, while Procedural memory relies on a more gradual learning process but has an excellent retention rate (Maybe that's where the quote "It's like riding a bike" comes from!). 


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