Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society

Research Articles

Good Language-Switchers are Good Task-Switchers: Evidence from Spanish–English and Mandarin–English Bilinguals

Anat Priora1 c1 and Tamar H. Gollana2

a1 Edmond J. Safra Brain Research Center, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel

a2 Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego, San Diego, California

Abstract

Bilingual advantages in executive control tasks are well documented, but it is not yet clear what degree or type of bilingualism leads to these advantages. To investigate this issue, we compared the performance of two bilingual groups and monolingual speakers in task-switching and language-switching paradigms. Spanish–English bilinguals, who reported switching between languages frequently in daily life, exhibited smaller task-switching costs than monolinguals after controlling for between-group differences in speed and parent education level. By contrast, Mandarin–English bilinguals, who reported switching languages less frequently than Spanish–English bilinguals, did not exhibit a task-switching advantage relative to monolinguals. Comparing the two bilingual groups in language-switching, Spanish–English bilinguals exhibited smaller costs than Mandarin–English bilinguals, even after matching for fluency in the non-dominant language. These results demonstrate an explicit link between language-switching and bilingual advantages in task-switching, while also illustrating some limitations on bilingual advantages. (JINS, 2011, 17, 682–691)

(Received November 22 2010)

(Revised March 20 2011)

(Accepted March 21 2011)

(Online publication May 13 2011)

Correspondence:

c1 Correspondence and reprint requests to: Anat Prior, Edmond J. Safra Brain Research Center, Faculty of Education, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel. E-mail: aprior@edu.haifa.ac.il