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Early childhood bilingualism leads to advances in executive attention: Dissociating culture and language*

  • DOI:
  • Published online: 07 April 2011

This study investigated whether early especially efficient utilization of executive functioning in young bilinguals would transcend potential cultural benefits. To dissociate potential cultural effects from bilingualism, four-year-old U.S. Korean–English bilingual children were compared to three monolingual groups – English and Korean monolinguals in the U.S.A. and another Korean monolingual group, in Korea. Overall, bilinguals were most accurate and fastest among all groups. The bilingual advantage was stronger than that of culture in the speed of attention processing, inverse processing efficiency independent of possible speed-accuracy trade-offs, and the network of executive control for conflict resolution. A culture advantage favoring Korean monolinguals from Korea was found in accuracy but at the cost of longer response times.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Barbara Lust, Department of Human Development, Martha Van Rensselaer Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY,
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This work was supported by research grant awards from the College of Human Ecology and the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies at Cornell University. We thank M. Rosario Rueda and Jin Fan for consultation on the Attention Network Test and to Ellen Bialystok, Suzanne Flynn, James Gair, and three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on the manuscript. Many thanks also go to the directors of daycare centers (NEW Christian Academy in New Jersey, Cornell University Early Childhood Center under the direction of Elizabeth Stilwell in New York, and Good Morning daycare in Korea) for their support, as well as parents and children who willingly participated in the study.

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Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
  • ISSN: 1366-7289
  • EISSN: 1469-1841
  • URL: /core/journals/bilingualism-language-and-cognition
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