Different Features of Bilingualism in Relation to Executive Functioning

Document identifier: oai:DiVA.org:ltu-76295
Access full text here:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00269
Keyword: Social Sciences, Samhällsvetenskap, Psychology, Psykologi, Bilingualism, Cognitive control, Executive functioning, Inhibition, Switching, Linguistic distance, Middle age, Old age
Publication year: 2019
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SDG 9 Industry, innovation and infrastructureSDG 11 Sustainable cities and communitiesSDG 3 Good health and wellbeing
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The notion that the long-term practice of managing two languages is beneficial for the executive control system is an ongoing debate. Criticism have been raised that studies demonstrating a bilingual advantage often suffer from small sample sizes, and do not control for fluid intelligence as a possible confound. Taking those suggested factors into account, focusing on older bilingual age groups and investigating the potential effects of linguistic distances, this study aimed to improve the interpretations of the bilinguals’ advantages. Measures of inhibition (Flanker, Stroop, Simon task) and switching (Number-letter, Color-Shape, Local-global task) were collected in participants in the ages 50-75 years (n = 193). Despite a large study sample, results did not support any beneficial effects related to improve processing costs in executive functioning. Sub-analyses of the two different language groups (Swedish – Finnish / Swedish – English) intended to investigate the effect of linguistic distances did not change this outcome. Future studies exploring the potential long-term term effects of bilingualism would benefit from identifying tests of cognitive control with greater ecological validity and include other measures of cognitive functioning. Language learning interventions may also be a promising tool for future research.


Daniel Eriksson Sörman

Umeå universitet, Institutionen för psykologi
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Patrik Hansson

Umeå universitet, Institutionen för psykologi
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Jessica Körning Ljungberg

Umeå universitet, Institutionen för psykologi
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