Oct 07, 2011Two psychology students have found evidence that suggests culture contributes to people’s ability to use active memory in recognizing objects and events.
Anna Ingebretson ’12, Glyndon, Minn., and Katie Zetah ’12, Cushing, Minn., spent a year testing and evaluating visual working memory in select groups of college students.
They found that people who are fluent in character languages like Chinese or Japanese are better at remembering and processing visual information. They presented their findings at a student lecture on campus.
Ingebretson and Zetah tested students who spoke only a single, alphabet-based language, those who spoke more than one alphabet-based language, and Chinese and Japanese bilinguals.
“We found that Chinese and Japanese bilinguals performed significantly better than other students on visual memory tasks,” says Ingebretson. “Our findings suggest that backgrounds in character-based languages may contribute to superior visual working memory abilities.”
They completed the initial phase of the project as part of their research methods in psychology class a year ago. Their instructor, Dr. Susan Larson, credits the two students with “developing a creative and novel approach to evaluating the cognitive benefits of bilingualism.”
Ingebretson continued her observations by studying abroad in China, and by working last summer with students from Concordia’s partner college in China who were studying in Moorhead.
Her additional time spent reading and evaluating cognitive psychology literature helped her develop a very sophisticated follow-up to the original study completed by her and Zetah, Larson says.
It doesn’t surprise Ingebretson that Chinese students, who write with characters, are good at remembering and recognizing objects “because they have to in order to learn their language.”