Executive functions in French-Greek early bilinguals: In search of the suggested bilingual advantage

Published: Dec 26, 2020
early bilingualism executive functions inhibition switching updating
Elisavet Chrysochoou
Styliani Kanaki
Ana B. Vivas
Bilinguals must manage two languages on a daily basis, which requires, among other things, dealing with cross-linguistic interference. Such cognitive training is assumed to underlie better performance of bilinguals, relative to monolinguals, in non-verbal cognitive tasks. Ηowever, the suggested advantage has recently been questioned. The present study aimed at shedding light into this debate, focusing on French-Greek early bilingual adults. Exposure to two languages from the first few years of life has been suggested to favour the demonstration of an advantage. Bilinguals were compared to Greek-speaking monolingual adults (matched for age, gender, non-verbal intelligence, and SES) on executive function tasks, tapping switching, inhibition, and updating processes. Task demands were also manipulated. In line with the suggested advantage and as expected, in the switching paradigm, bilinguals performed faster overall and demonstrated a smaller mixing cost; this can be assumed to reflect better general monitoring and top-down processing for bilingual participants. In contrast, the groups did not differ on switching cost, neither on the inhibition and updating measures. Moreover, contrary to what was expected, the cognitive measures did not correlate with an index of how balanced bilingualism was. Findings do not support a general and robust cognitive advantage in a sample of early bilinguals. Factors that might influence its observation are discussed, along with lines of future research.
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