Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Adult Development and Aging

Department

Sciences and Health Professions

First Advisor

McLennan, Conor

Subject Headings

Psychology

Abstract

The purpose of this dissertation research was to analyze the effects of bilingualism and age on cognitive function. Specifically, I investigated the impact of bilingualism and age on two measures of executive control. The Stroop task is a measure of response inhibition, and the Flanker task is a measure of attention selection. Participants responded using a computer mouse. The mouse-tracking paradigm allowed me to examine the continuous dynamics of the responses as participants completed each trial. A better understanding of the impact of bilingualism and age on cognitive function has the potential to minimize cognitive decline in older age. The results showed that younger age was associated with better cognitive function in both tasks, but the positive effect of bilingualism was limited to the Stroop task. In response inhibition, the detrimental effect of age can be curtailed by the positive effect of bilingualism. Bilingualism offset approximately 60% of age-related cognitive decline in the current study. These results provide further support for the notion that bilingualism is one way of enhancing some aspects of cognitive function across the lifespan. The present study adds to the literature by studying these effects without dichotomizing bilingualism or age. It is important to measure continuous variables as such; varying degrees of the same construct have the potential to result in different levels of executive function.

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