Task-specific bilingual effects in Mandarin-English speaking high school students in China

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The question of whether bilingual language experience confers a cognitive advantage is still open. Studies report that putative bilingual advantages can be accounted for by individual differences in socioeconomic class, immigration status, or culture. Such studies typically consider bilingual experience to be a categorical variable using parametric statistical analyses. However, bilingual experience is itself highly variable across individual participants in most studies reported to date. Here we test the hypothesis that bilingual experience has a direct effect on executive function by estimating the effect of L2 (English) experience on performance in the Simon and flanker tasks. Linear mixed-effects models were used to assess effects of bilingual experience on performance. Self-reported L2 proficiency was associated with reduced interference on the Simon task as well as faster global response times on the flanker task, suggesting some cognitive advantages during inhibitory control. We conclude that individual differences in bilingual language experience may explain the many contradictory findings in studies testing the veracity of the bilingual advantage.

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Current Research in Behavioral Sciences



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