Date of Award

Winter 1-1-2020

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts Degree

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Mclennan, Conor T.

Second Advisor

Kenneth Vail

Third Advisor

Andrew Slifkin

Abstract

We tested the hypothesis that young adult bilinguals show a significant advantage relative to young adult monolinguals in two visuospatial executive function (EF) tasks, the Simon task and the Corsi task. The focus was on bilinguals who reported being exposed to all of their languages on a regular basis (i.e., used no language more than 60% of the time). Regular language use has been identified in past theoretical positions as an important mechanism contributing to a bilingual advantage. In many previous studies of bilingualism and EF, which have produced conflicting results, researchers have included verbal components, as opposed to visuospatial tasks of working memory. Consequently, inconsistent results across previous studies could be due, at least in part, to differences in verbal abilities between monolinguals and bilinguals. Tests that use verbal components to examine EF may be probing verbal abilities, rather than EF. Visuospatial tasks, including the Simon (Bialystok, 1999) and Corsi (Berch et al., 1998) tasks, provided an opportunity to measure EF performance without the possible confounding factor of verbal ability. The data indicate patterns of a bilingual advantage in conditions that place heavier demands on EF, although not statistically significant. Results based on comparisons of bilinguals and monolinguals are tentative until a larger sample size of bilinguals is obtained.

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