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A bilingual advantage in task switching*

  • ANAT PRIOR (a1) and BRIAN MACWHINNEY (a2)
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1366728909990526
  • Published online: 17 December 2009
Abstract

This study investigated the possibility that lifelong bilingualism may lead to enhanced efficiency in the ability to shift between mental sets. We compared the performance of monolingual and fluent bilingual college students in a task-switching paradigm. Bilinguals incurred reduced switching costs in the task-switching paradigm when compared with monolinguals, suggesting that lifelong experience in switching between languages may contribute to increased efficiency in the ability to shift flexibly between mental sets. On the other hand, bilinguals did not differ from monolinguals in the differential cost of performing mixed-task as opposed to single-task blocks. Together, these results indicate that bilingual advantages in executive function most likely extend beyond inhibition of competing responses, and encompass flexible mental shifting as well.

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Corresponding author
Address for Correspondence: Anat Prior, Edmond J. Safra Brain Research Center for the Study of Learning Disabilities, Faculty of Education, University of Haifa, Israelaprior@construct.haifa.ac.il
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The authors thank Anna Guitchounts for impeccable data collection and coding, Giora Unger for programming assistance, Nick Yeung and Hagit Magen for helpful discussions, and Tamar Degani, Dave Plaut, Ellen Bialystok, Albert Costa, Addie Johnson and Andrea Philipp for comments on a previous version of the manuscript. AP was funded by post-doctoral NRSA F32HD049255.

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Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
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