Cognitive Advantage in Bilinguals
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Recent studies examining effects of bilingualism on executive functions in children and adults have found evidence supporting (a) advantages in executive control and (b) disadvantages in linguistic processing. There is evidence suggesting that bilinguals have better controlled processing and are more efficient at certain cognitive functions. Such findings have led to the hypothesis that there is a bilingual advantage (BA) for various cognitive tasks (Bialystok et al, 2004, 2012; inter alia). Studies examining the BA hypothesis typically time participants as they perform tasks thought to involve executive function. Commonly used tasks include the Stroop, Simon, Antisaccade, and Flanker. For example, the Stroop task includes a condition in which participants name the color of the letters in which a color word is written (e.g., saying “red” when seeing the word GREEN written in red letters). Studies have found that bilinguals were faster and made fewer errors in this condition than age-matched monolinguals (Costa et al. 2009). Some researchers hold however that bilingual advantages in executive function either do not exist (Paap et al., 2013) or are restricted to very specific tasks or experiences (Paap et al., 2014). Although existing studies on both sides have made strong claims, there remain gaps in the data and analyses. This study will attempt to bridge those gaps by seeking evidence of beneficial cognitive effects in bilinguals. Spanish monolingual and Spanish-English bilingual participants (L1 Spanish has not been examined in BA research) will be tested on the Simon and Flanker tasks. The study will also explore the possible effects of covariates on the Simon and Flanker tasks. Covariates will include second language proficiency, education, age, age of acquisition, gender, occupation, impairments, and frequency of usage of the second language. Overall findings relative to the BA hypothesis will be discussed, along with possible future research directions.