Do Memories Come Back More Clearly in the Language in Which They Took Place?
"When a child is raised with one language and learns another language in adolescence or adulthood," explains doctoral student Benjamin Marsh, "Childhood memories will be recalled more easily using their first language." Based on this principal, Benjamin has begun working on his Master’s thesis on autobiographical memory among bilingual adults with Professor Tomoe Kanaya.
More specifically, Benjamin’s project deals with the quality of memory recall among bilingual and monolingual adults. He predicts that when bilingual participants who perform the task in Spanish and are asked to recall a childhood memory that more than likely took place in a Spanish context, their memories will be more detailed than bilingual participants who performed the same task in English.
This prediction is not just abstract academic curiosity— if it is validated, his thesis could have important implications for the legal system. Vital memories could be solicited in an investigation, for example, by asking questions and receiving responses in the same language as the memory context. The implications for eyewitness testimony could be very illuminating in ways crucial to the carrying-out of justice.
Benjamin shares his gratitude for the support he is receiving from the CGU faculty to discover and pursue his true interests. Although he admits that he is fairly new to research and at times lacks the necessary confidence, he is confident that there are strong faculty that will support him all the way and make sure he succeeds. "This is my career," he says. "I feel that CGU provides the optimal atmosphere to learn all that is needed be a good psychologist. I want to make my professors proud."