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Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 520–525 | Cite as

Novel evidence in support of the bilingual advantage: Influences of task demands and experience on cognitive control and working memory

  • Brooke N. MacnamaraEmail author
  • Andrew R. A. Conway
Brief Report

Abstract

The bilingual advantage—enhanced cognitive control relative to monolinguals—possibly occurs due to experience engaging general cognitive mechanisms in order to manage two languages. Supporting this hypothesis is evidence that bimodal (signed language–spoken language) bilinguals do not demonstrate such an advantage, presumably because the distinct language modalities reduce conflict and control demands. We hypothesized that the mechanism responsible for the bilingual advantage is the interplay between (a) the magnitude of bilingual management demands and (b) the amount of experience managing those demands. We recruited adult bimodal bilinguals with high bilingual management demands and examined cognitive control and working memory capacity longitudinally. After gaining experience managing high bilingual management demands, participants outperformed themselves from 2 years earlier on cognitive abilities associated with managing the bilingual demands. These results suggest that cognitive control outcomes for bilinguals vary as a function of the mechanisms recruited during bilingual management and the amount of experience managing the bilingual demands.

Keywords

Bilingual advantage Working memory Cognitive control Simultaneous interpreting 

Notes

Author note

We thank Eileen Forrestal, Cynthia Williams, David Rivera, Rob Hills, Vanessa Watson, Ashley Graham, and the participants in this study for their time and effort.

Supplementary material

13423_2013_524_MOESM1_ESM.docx (121 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 120 kb)

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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