Unconscious Attitudes toward L2 Native Speakers
Ali H. Al-Hoorie
Paper presented at the British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL)
(September, 3–5, 2015, Aston University)
Since Gardner and Lambert’s (1959) seminal study, second language (L2) motivation has always
been construed as a conscious, deliberative process that can be measured to a satisfactory extent
by self-report questionnaires (e.g., Dörnyei & Ushioda, 2011; Gardner, 2010). This paper tries to
break this conventional wisdom by presenting empirical results supporting the significance of
implicit (i.e., unconscious) attitudes and demonstrating how to measure them.
Arabic L1 adults and young adults (N = 365) completed the Implicit Association Test
(Greenwald et al., 1998) that examined their implicit attitudes toward L2 native speakers, as well
as a self-report questionnaire that examined their explicit attitudes. The results showed that 1)
explicit–implicit congruence was associated with stronger affiliation with L2 speakers, 2)
learners with negative implicit attitudes were too heterogeneous to be considered a single group,
and 3) implicit attitudes moderated the relationship between (explicit) attitudes toward L2
speakers and the ideal L2 self.
The paper concludes by arguing that unconscious attitudes constitute a second dimension to L2
motivation in addition to the conscious dimension: Learners might score highly on both, either,
or none; and each of these possibilities may have a differential effect on L2 learning.
Dörnyei, Z., & Ushioda, U. (2011). Teaching and Researching Motivation (2nd ed.). Harlow,
Gardner, R. C. (2010). Motivation and Second Language Acquisition: The Socio-Educational
Model. New York: Peter Lang.
Gardner, R. C., & Lambert, W. E. (1959). Motivational variables in second-language acquisition.
Canadian Journal of Psychology/Revue canadienne de psychologie, 13(4), 266–272.
Greenwald, A. G., McGhee, D. E., & Schwartz, J. L. (1998). Measuring individual differences in
implicit cognition: The Implicit Association Test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,