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Simon and picture-word Stroop tasks of inhibition in monolingual and bilingual grade 2 children Campbell, Kristina J.

Abstract

This study investigated the effect of bilingualism on children's performance on two tasks of inhibition. English monolinguals (n =21) and successive Chinese-English bilinguals (n =21) in Grade 2 (ages 7-8) completed the Simon task and a picture-word Stroop task. Both tasks required the inhibition of perceptual attributes of the stimuli; certain conditions of the picture-word Stroop task also required inhibition of conceptual information. In the Simon task, children were required to ignore salient spatial cues and respond only to stimulus colour. As expected, both the monolingual and bilingual groups in this study showed faster RTs on the condition that did not involve a spatial conflict than the one that involved a spatial conflict. In contrast with previous research findings, however, a bilingual group advantage was not observed on this task. In the picture-word Stroop task, children had to name pictures with or without incongruent words written inside. The distracters in different conditions were hypothesized to access the semantic/conceptual level to varying degrees, in accordance with a connectionist model of language processing. Across all participants, real-word distracters were associated with lower accuracy and slower RTs than all other distracters. In general, RT interference varied with the nature of the distracter: words that accessed the semantic level more directly were associated with greater interference, and words that did not access the semantic level produced less interference. No monolingual-bilingual group differences were observed on this task. This study illustrates the feasibility of applying connectionist processing models to language tasks of inhibition. Implications of these results for current explanations of the bilingual inhibitory advantage are discussed.

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