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What do your eyes reveal about your foreign language? Reading emotional sentences in a native and foreign language

Iacozza, S., Costa, A., & Duñabeitia, J. A. (2017). What do your eyes reveal about your foreign language? Reading emotional sentences in a native and foreign language. PLoS One, 12(10): e0186027. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0186027.
Foreign languages are often learned in emotionally neutral academic environments which differ greatly from the familiar context where native languages are acquired. This difference in learning contexts has been argued to lead to reduced emotional resonance when confronted with a foreign language. In the current study, we investigated whether the reactivity of the sympathetic nervous system in response to emotionally-charged stimuli is reduced in a foreign language. To this end, pupil sizes were recorded while reading aloud emotional sentences in the native or foreign language. Additionally, subjective ratings of emotional impact were provided after reading each sentence, allowing us to further investigate foreign language effects on explicit emotional understanding. Pupillary responses showed a larger effect of emotion in the native than in the foreign language. However, such a difference was not present for explicit ratings of emotionality. These results reveal that the sympathetic nervous system reacts differently depending on the language context, which in turns suggests a deeper emotional processing when reading in a native compared to a foreign language.

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