Electrophysiological correlates of error monitoring and feedback processing in second language learning
Number of pages
SourceFrontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11, (2017), article 29
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC PL
SW OZ DCC SMN
SW OZ DCC CO
Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
SubjectAction, intention, and motor control; Biological psychology; DI-BCB_DCC_Theme 2: Perception, Action and Control; DI-BCB_DCC_Theme 3: Plasticity and Memory; Psycholinguistics; Biologische psychologie
Humans monitor their behavior to optimize performance, which presumably relies on stable representations of correct responses. During second language (L2) learning, however, stable representations have yet to be formed while knowledge of the first language (L1) can interfere with learning, which in some cases results in persistent errors. In order to examine how correct L2 representations are stabilized, this study examined performance monitoring in the learning process of second language learners for a feature that conflicts with their first language. Using EEG, we investigated if L2 learners in a feedback-guided word gender assignment task showed signs of error detection in the form of an error-related negativity (ERN) before and after receiving feedback, and how feedback is processed. The results indicated that initially, response-locked negativities for correct (CRN) and incorrect (ERN) responses were of similar size, showing a lack of internal error detection when L2 representations are unstable. As behavioral performance improved following feedback, the ERN became larger than the CRN, pointing to the first signs of successful error detection. Additionally, we observed a second negativity following the ERN/CRN components, the amplitude of which followed a similar pattern as the previous negativities. Feedback-locked data indicated robust FRN and P300 effects in response to negative feedback across different rounds, demonstrating that feedback remained important in order to update memory representations during learning. We thus show that initially, L2 representations may often not be stable enough to warrant successful error monitoring, but can be stabilized through repeated feedback, which means that the brain is able to overcome L1 interference, and can learn to detect errors internally after a short training session. The results contribute a different perspective to the discussion on changes in ERN and FRN components in relation to learning, by extending the investigation of these effects to the language learning domain. Furthermore, these findings provide a further characterization of the online learning process of L2 learners.
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