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Evidence of an advantage in visuo-spatial memory for bilingual compared to monolingual speakers

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 February 2016

Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge
Developmental Neurocognition Lab, Birkbeck, University of London
Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge
Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge Developmental Neurocognition Lab, Birkbeck, University of London
Address for correspondence: Dr. Roberto Filippi, Anglia Ruskin University, Faculty of Science & Technology, East Road, Cambridge CB1


Previous research has indicated that bilinguals outperform monolinguals in cognitive tasks involving spatial working memory. The present study examines evidence for this claim using a different and arguably more ecologically valid method (the change blindness task). Bilingual and monolingual participants were presented with two versions of the same scenes and required to press a key as soon as they identified the alteration. They also completed the word and alpha span tasks, and the Corsi blocks task. The results in the change blindness task, controlled for group differences in non-verbal reasoning, indicated that bilinguals were faster and more accurate than monolinguals at detecting visual changes. Similar group differences were found on the Corsi block task. Unlike previous findings, no group differences were found on the verbal memory tasks. The results are discussed with reference to mechanisms of cognitive control as a locus of transfer between bilingualism and spatial working memory tasks.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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This study was funded by the Leverhulme Trust, grant RPG-2015-024 and UK ESRC grant RES-062-23-2721. Our thanks to Prof. Fergus Craik for his valuable input. Bright and Filippi contributed equally to this work.


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