The interaction between bilingual language abilities and cognitive control in adults and children

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Abstract

Part of the controversy in the field of bilingualism and cognitive control can be related to a limited
understanding of the interaction between specific bilingual language abilities (such as language switching,
monitoring, etc.) and cognitive control. Most research on this interaction has focused on language control
requirements in mixed-language picture naming tasks with adult participants, largely ignoring development
aspects and the interaction between several language abilities (such as understanding language switches) and
cognitive control. In this paper, I report on two experiments that may further our understanding of the
interaction between bilingual language abilities and cognitive control in adults and children.
In a first experiment, I intended to investigate the interaction between understanding (instead of producing)
language switches and cognitive control performance. Young adult unbalanced bilingual participants
completed a mixed-language semantic categorization task and a widely used non-verbal cognitive control
task. Unlike in mixed-language production tasks, no interaction effect between the factors of language and
switch was detected on the mixed-language semantic categorization task. Despite the absence of this
interaction effect, individual forward switch costs (switching into L2) and the asymmetry between backward
(switching into L1) and forward (switching into L2) switching costs were highly correlated to global
response times on the Simon task.
In a second experiment, I intended to investigate the interaction between fluency in language switching and
cognitive control performance in children, adding a developmental approach to previous research. Elevenyear
old children completed a verbal fluency task in three conditions (two single-language and one mixedlanguage)
and a widely used non-verbal cognitive control task. Mixed-language costs in verbal fluency were
calculated by subtracting performance on the single–language conditions from performance on the mixedlanguage
condition. Mixed-language costs turned out to be highly correlated to performance on incongruent
trials of the Simon task, but in the inverse direction as with adult participants.
The results of both experiments show the importance of understanding the developmental aspects of the
interaction between bilingual language abilities and cognitive control. First, this interaction may not be
restricted to language-production tasks. Second, this interaction may be different for children and (young)
adults. The implications of these results are discussed in light of the ongoing controversy in the field of
bilingualism and cognitive control.
Original languageEnglish
Pages24-24
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventConference on Multilingualism - Het Pand, Ghent, Belgium
Duration: 11 Sep 201613 Sep 2016
http://www.com2016.ugent.be/

Conference

ConferenceConference on Multilingualism
CountryBelgium
CityGhent
Period11/09/1613/09/16
Internet address

Keywords

  • bilingualism
  • cognitve control
  • bilingual advantage

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