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Bilingual advantage in executive control when task demands are considered*

  • LI QU (a1), JOEL JIA WEI LOW (a1), TING ZHANG (a2), HONG LI (a3) and PHILIP DAVID ZELAZO (a4)...


To examine how task demands influence bilingual advantage in executive control over monolinguals, we tested 32 Chinese monolinguals and 32 Chinese–English bilinguals with four versions of a color-shape switching task. During switching trials, the task required participants to suppress one set of conflicting (or non-conflicting) responses and simultaneously to activate another set of conflicting (or non-conflicting) responses. The results showed that compared to monolinguals, (i) when suppressing conflicting responses or (ii) activating non-conflicting responses, bilinguals had significantly smaller switching costs though similar mixing costs; (iii) when suppressing one set of conflicting responses and simultaneously activating another set of conflicting responses, bilinguals had significantly smaller switching costs though larger mixing costs; and (iv) when suppressing one set of non-conflicting responses and simultaneously activating another set of non-conflicting responses, bilinguals had similar switching costs and mixing costs. These findings indicate that task demands affect bilingual advantage in executive control.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Li Qu, Division of Psychology, Nanyang Technological University, 14 Nanyang Drive, Singapore 637332


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We wish to acknowledge the funding support for this project from Nanyang Technological University under the Undergraduate Research Experience on Campus (URECA) programme. We would also like to thank Chong Pei Shan, Lim Wei Li Dawn, Cheng Cheng Jiang, and Qiao Dai for their involvement in data collection. We also thank the two anonymous reviewers for comments on a previous version of the manuscript.



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