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Effect of socio-economic status on cognitive control in non-literate bilingual speakers*



Previous research has suggested that the advantages for cognitive control abilities in bilinguals are attenuated when socio-economic status (SES) is controlled (e.g., Morton & Harper, 2007). This study examined the effect of SES on cognitive control in illiterate monolingual and bilingual individuals who lived in adverse social conditions. We tested monolinguals and bilinguals using Simon and Attentional Network task while controlling for two potential confounding factors: SES and literacy. Bilinguals were faster for both trials with and without conflict demonstrating overall faster response times (global advantage) compared to monolinguals on both tasks. However, no bilingual advantage was found for conflict resolution on the Simon task and attentional networks on the Attentional Network task. The overall bilingual effects provide evidence for a bilingual advantage even among individuals without literacy skills and of very low SES. This indicates a strong link between bilingualism and cognitive control over and above effects of SES.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Vishnu KK Nair, Discipline of Speech Pathology and Audiology, Level 7, Flinders Medical Centre, Flinders University, SA 5001, Australia.


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During the preparation of this paper, Vishnu KK Nair was supported by an International Macquarie University Research Excellence Scholarship (iMQRES - 2011105), ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Department of Cognitive Science, Macquarie University. Lyndsey Nickels was supported by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (FT 120100102), and Britta Biedermann by an Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship and Discovery Project (DP 11010079). We would like to thank Albert Costa and Mireia Hernández for their help with experiments, Jeff Mathew and staff members of Marthoma College of Special Education, Kasargod, Kerala for their assistance in data collection, and two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on an earlier draft.



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