Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Psychology


Cognitive Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, 77 pages) : color illustrations.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Jeanette Altarriba

Committee Members

Maurice Westmoreland


emotion, language, lexical decision, word type, Language and emotions, Bilingualism, Left and right (Psychology), Cerebral dominance, Brain

Subject Categories

Cognitive Psychology | Psychology | Reading and Language


Emotion representation in monolingual speakers is complex, and for bilinguals the relationship between emotion and language can be even more intriguing. The present study examined reactions to words of six types, including positive, negative, and neutral words varying in concreteness. Words and nonwords were intermixed in a lexical decision task using hemifield presentation. In Experiment 1, participants were English monolinguals and all stimuli were presented in English. In Experiment 2, participants were Spanish-English bilinguals who were presented with both English and Spanish stimuli. Results revealed a general left hemisphere advantage. Overall, reaction times for positive words were faster than for negative or neutral words and this effect varied by hemifield of presentation. These results support a valence hypothesis of specialized processing in the left hemisphere of the brain for positive emotions and the right hemisphere for negative emotions. However, this pattern of emotion representation in the brain was found for bilingual participants only in their first language (L1), despite high proficiency in their second language, suggesting a unique representation of emotion in a bilingual speaker’s L1.