Two faces, two languages: An fMRI study of bilingual picture naming

Yunqing Li, Jing Yang, K. Suzanne Scherf, Ping Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


This fMRI study explores how nonlinguistic cues modulate lexical activation in the bilingual brain. We examined the influence of face race on bilingual language production in a picture-naming paradigm. Chinese-English bilinguals were presented with pictures of objects and images of faces (Asian or Caucasian). Participants named the picture in their first or second language (Chinese or English) in separate blocks. Face race and naming language were either congruent (e.g., naming in Chinese when seeing an Asian face) or incongruent (e.g., naming in English when seeing an Asian face). Our results revealed that face cues facilitate naming when the socio-cultural identity of the face is congruent with the naming language. The congruence effects are reflected as effective integration of lexical and facial cues in key brain regions including IFG, MFG, ACC, and caudate. Implications of the findings in light of theories of language processing and cultural priming are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)452-462
Number of pages11
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Speech and Hearing


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