Bilingualism: Language and Cognition

Research Notes

Early childhood bilingualism leads to advances in executive attention: Dissociating culture and language*

SUJIN YANGa1, HWAJIN YANGa2 and BARBARA LUSTa3 c1

a1 Tyndale University College

a2 Singapore Management University

a3 Cornell University

Abstract

This study investigated whether early especially efficient utilization of executive functioning in young bilinguals would transcend potential cultural benefits. To dissociate potential cultural effects from bilingualism, four-year-old U.S. Korean–English bilingual children were compared to three monolingual groups – English and Korean monolinguals in the U.S.A. and another Korean monolingual group, in Korea. Overall, bilinguals were most accurate and fastest among all groups. The bilingual advantage was stronger than that of culture in the speed of attention processing, inverse processing efficiency independent of possible speed-accuracy trade-offs, and the network of executive control for conflict resolution. A culture advantage favoring Korean monolinguals from Korea was found in accuracy but at the cost of longer response times.

(Received October 27 2009)

(Revised July 20 2010)

(Accepted October 15 2010)

(Online publication April 07 2011)

Correspondence:

c1 Address for correspondence: Barbara Lust, Department of Human Development, Martha Van Rensselaer Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA BCL4@cornell.edu

Footnotes

* This work was supported by research grant awards from the College of Human Ecology and the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies at Cornell University. We thank M. Rosario Rueda and Jin Fan for consultation on the Attention Network Test and to Ellen Bialystok, Suzanne Flynn, James Gair, and three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on the manuscript. Many thanks also go to the directors of daycare centers (NEW Christian Academy in New Jersey, Cornell University Early Childhood Center under the direction of Elizabeth Stilwell in New York, and Good Morning daycare in Korea) for their support, as well as parents and children who willingly participated in the study.