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The relationship between bilingualism and the development of cognitive processes in problem solving

  • Ellen Bialystok (a1) and Shilpi Majumder (a1)


This study examined the effects of differing degrees of bilingualism on the nonverbal problemsolving abilities of children in grade 3. Three linguistic groups were compared on problem-solving tasks designed to measure control of attention or analysis of knowledge, processes previously shown to develop differently in monolingual and bilingual children solving linguistic problems (Bialystok, 1988). In this study, an English-speaking monolingual group was compared with a French–English bilingual group and a Bengali-English bilingual group. All of the children in the study were similar except for their language background. Tests of language proficiency confirmed that the French-English subjects were balanced bilinguals and that the Bengali-English subjects were partial bilinguals. The balanced French–English bilinguals showed better performance on the non-linguistic tasks requiring control of attention than both the partial bilingual group and the monolingual group. There were no differences found between the groups on the non-linguistic task requiring analysis of representational structures. These results indicate that balanced bilinguals carry over their linguistic advantage in control of attention into the non-linguistic domain.


Corresponding author

Department of Psychology, York University, 4700 Keele Street, North York, Ontario, M3j 1P3, Canada


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Applied Psycholinguistics
  • ISSN: 0142-7164
  • EISSN: 1469-1817
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