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The cognitive advantage in bilingualism : attention and working memory Marcoux, Caroline

Abstract

This study investigated the effect of bilingualism on the ability to perform on task tapping into executive functions. In particular the ability of 31 French-English bilingual children (age 8-10 years) to perform on inhibition and working memory tasks was compared to that of a group of French monolingual peers. All children completed a task requiring inhibitory skills. In this task, children must ignore spatial cues and select a response that corresponds only to the stimulus color. As well, all children completed two working memory tasks that involved both storage and processing of information. An auditory-verbal working memory task required children to categorize words by size of the referent before recalling an auditorally presented list of words. In a visuo-spatial working memory task children were instructed to remember the location and categorize shapes presented in a 4 x 4 grid. The bilingual children outperformed their monolingual peers on all three tasks. In addition, the bilingual children whose two languages were more balanced performed better than the bilingual children who were dominant in one of their languages on the inhibition task. The results of this study suggest that bilingual children are at an advantage when performing on tasks requiring inhibitory and working memory abilities. Possible mechanisms underlying the observed bilingual advantage are discussed.

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