Dimosthenis Karatzas


Journal Publication

Blue–green color categorization in Mandarin–English speakers

S. Wuerger, K. Xiao, D. Mylonas, Q. Huang, D. Karatzas and G. Paramei

Journal of the Optical Society of America - A, Vol. 29(2), pp. A102-A107, February 2012

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Observers are faster to detect a target among a set of distracters if the targets and distracters come from different color categories. This cross-boundary advantage seems to be limited to the right visual field, which is consistent with the dominance of the left hemisphere for language processing [Gilbert et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 103, 489 (2006)]. Here we study whether a similar visual field advantage is found in the color identification task in speakers of Mandarin, a language that uses a logographic system. Forty late Mandarin–English bilinguals performed a blue–green color categorization task, in a blocked design, in their first language (L1: Mandarin) or second language (L2: English). Eleven color singletons ranging from blue to green were presented for 160 ms, randomly in the left visual field (LVF) or right visual field (RVF). Color boundary and reaction times (RTs) at the color boundary were estimated in L1 and L2, for both visual fields. We found that the color boundary did not differ between the languages; RTs at the color boundary, however, were on average more than 100 ms shorter in the English compared to the Mandarin sessions, but only when the stimuli were presented in the RVF. The finding may be explained by the script nature of the two languages: Mandarin logographic characters are analyzed visuospatially in the right hemisphere, which conceivably facilitates identification of color presented to the LVF.

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