Bilingualism and enhanced attention in early adulthood

  • Stafford C
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Abstract

This exploratory study investigated executive attention during nonverbal and verbal processing among adults with a range of bilingual experience. Previous research has found that bilingual children control their attention better than their monolingual peers and that superior attentional control in some processing contexts persists into adulthood among lifelong bilinguals. An open question is whether late-acquired experience learning and using two languages can lead to enhanced executive attention or whether these cognitive advantages are available only to individuals whose bilingualism develops in early childhood. A total of 48 Spanish?English bilinguals completed verbal and nonverbal tasks designed to assess aspects of executive attention including inhibitory control and monitoring and switching of attention (i.e. working memory capacity). Preliminary results suggest an association between bilingual experience and enhanced efficiency of these components of executive attention in the nonverbal domain. Furthermore, a significant relationship between the efficiency of inhibitory control in verbal and nonverbal domains hints at a connection between specific control over language and enhanced domain-general executive control that may be more or less evident depending on task demands. These encouraging pilot results warrant larger-scale replication that brings together data from both linguistic and nonlinguistic processing as bilingualism research seeks to extend its understanding of bilingual cognition.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Adult bilinguals
  • Adult language learners
  • Advantages of bilingualism
  • Early bilingualism
  • Executive attention
  • Sequential bilingualism
  • Simon task
  • Verbal working memory

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Authors

  • Catherine A. Stafford

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