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Bilinguals’ social flexibility



Is bilingualism better than monolingualism? Previous work shows that bilinguals have an advantage over monolinguals in cognitive flexibility, the ability to shift between different mental sets. In this study, we explore if bilingualism also provides an advantage in social flexibility, which we define as the ability to (a) switch with ease and adapt between different social environments and (b) accurately read social cues in the environment. Data was collected from 465 monolinguals and 206 bilinguals. Bilinguals reported higher social flexibility than monolinguals. Mediation analyses demonstrated that bilinguals’ social flexibility gave them an advantage over monolinguals in the self-reported frequency of social interactions. This study reports the first evidence of a social flexibility advantage of bilinguals, and it suggests that as bilinguals alternate between two languages, they might also alternate between two cultural worlds, providing tools to adapt to different social environments and facilitating the frequency of social interactions.

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Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Elif Ikizer, Department of Psychological Sciences, Unit 1020, University of Connecticut, 406 Babbidge Road, Storrs, CT


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