Mental Pollution Hypothesis and Foreign Vocabulary Retention
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Research into second language acquisition lists several factors - social, psychological, cognitive, and affective - as reasons for the failure or low performance of many adult language learners. This present study was conducted to show that in addition to these factors it can also be greatly slowed by mental pollution - any ‘contamination of the mind’ by various forms of affective visual distractors, ranging in scope from violent or sexually suggestive images to comedic commercial advertisements and coming from a variety of media sources - from which younger learners are mostly protected but older learners are accustomed to encountering on an almost daily basis. In order to test the mental pollution hypothesis, 106 university students participated in the experiment which comprised vocabulary teaching along with two different treatments: mental pollutants being the first and free class time with relaxing music in the background comprising the second. The Equivalent Materials, Pretest, Posttest Design together, including descriptive statistics and paired sample t-tests, were used to analyze the vocabulary scores derived from the two treatments. The findings of the experiment indicate that when learners are exposed to high level of mental pollution, they demonstrate low retention of new vocabulary in a foreign language.
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