Psychological Research

, Volume 79, Issue 3, pp 371–379 | Cite as

Two is better than one: bilingual education promotes the flexible mind

  • Ingrid K. Christoffels
  • Annelies M. de Haan
  • Laura Steenbergen
  • Wery P. M. van den Wildenberg
  • Lorenza S. Colzato
Original Article


The interest in the influence of bilingualism on our daily life is constantly growing. Speaking two languages (or more) requires people to develop a flexible mindset to rapidly switch back and forth between languages. This study investigated whether and to what extent attending bilingual education benefits cognitive control. We tested two groups of Dutch high-school students who either followed regular classes in Dutch or were taught in both English and Dutch. They performed on a global–local switching paradigm that provides well-established measures of cognitive flexibility and attentional processing style. As predicted, the bilingually educated group showed smaller switching costs (i.e., greater cognitive flexibility) and a decreased global precedence effect than the regular group. Our findings support the idea that bilingual education promotes cognitive flexibility and a bias towards a more focused “scope” of attention.


Cognitive Control Switch Cost Digit Span Cognitive Flexibility Incongruent Trial 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to thank the Alfrink College, Zoetermeer, and in particular Dhr. Oudenaarden for their help facilitating this study and the students for their participation. We further thank NWO for the financial support of this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ingrid K. Christoffels
    • 1
  • Annelies M. de Haan
    • 1
  • Laura Steenbergen
    • 1
  • Wery P. M. van den Wildenberg
    • 2
  • Lorenza S. Colzato
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Psychological Research and Leiden Institute for Brain and CognitionLeiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Psychology Department, Amsterdam Center for the Study of Adaptive Control in Brain and Behaviour (Acacia)University of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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