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Flexibility in task switching by monolinguals and bilinguals*

  • MELODY WISEHEART (a1), MYTHILI VISWANATHAN (a1) and ELLEN BIALYSTOK (a1)

Abstract

Many bilinguals routinely switch between their languages, yet mixed evidence exists about the transfer of language switching skills to broader domains that require attentional control such as task switching. Monolingual and bilingual young adults performed a nonverbal task-switching paradigm in which they viewed colored pictures of animals and indicated either the animal or its color in response to a cue. Monolinguals and bilinguals performed similarly when switching between tasks (local switch cost) in a mixed-task block, but bilinguals demonstrated a smaller mixing effect (global switch cost) than monolinguals, indicating better ability to reconfigure stimulus–response associations. These results suggest that regular practice using multiple languages confers a broader executive function advantage shown as improved flexibility in task switching.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Melody Wiseheart, Department of Psychology, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, ON M3J 1P3, Canada ncepeda@yorku.ca

Footnotes

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This work was partially supported by grant R01HD052523 from the US National Institutes of Health and grant A2559 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to EB. We thank Kornelia Hawrylewicz for collecting the data and reviewers for feedback on the manuscript.

Footnotes

References

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Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
  • ISSN: 1366-7289
  • EISSN: 1469-1841
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