Bilingualism: Language and Cognition

Research Article

The development of two types of inhibitory control in monolingual and bilingual children*

MICHELLE M. MARTIN-RHEEa1 and ELLEN BIALYSTOKa2 c1

a1 Harcourt Assessment/The Psychological Corporation

a2 York University

Abstract

Previous research has shown that bilingual children excel in tasks requiring inhibitory control to ignore a misleading perceptual cue. The present series of studies extends this finding by identifying the degree and type of inhibitory control for which bilingual children demonstrate this advantage. Study 1 replicated the earlier research by showing that bilingual children perform the Simon task more rapidly than monolinguals, but only on conditions in which the demands for inhibitory control were high. The next two studies compared performance on tasks that required inhibition of attention to a specific cue, like the Simon task, and inhibition of a habitual response, like the day–night Stroop task. In both studies, bilingual children maintained their advantage on tasks that require control of attention but showed no advantage on tasks that required inhibition of response. These results confine the bilingual advantage found previously to complex tasks requiring control over attention to competing cues (interference suppression) and not to tasks requiring control over competing responses (response inhibition).

(Received August 20 2006)

(Revised December 13 2006)

(Accepted December 18 2006)

Correspondence:

c1 Address for correspondence: Ellen Bialystok, Department of Psychology, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario, M3J 1P3, Canada ellenb@yorku.ca

Footnotes

* The research was funded by a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to the second author. We are grateful to Jonathan Lipszyc for his assistance in Study 3.