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.
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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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Christoffels, I.K., de Haan, A.M., Steenbergen, L. et al. Two is better than one: bilingual education promotes the flexible mind. Psychological Research 79, 371–379 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-014-0575-3
- Cognitive Control
- Switch Cost
- Digit Span
- Cognitive Flexibility
- Incongruent Trial