Brenda Iok Wong (Ryerson University)
bilingual; inhibitory control; inhibition tasks; age; review
Green proposed that bilinguals exert inhibitory control during everyday conversations, as they need to suppress the production of the language irrelevant to the conversational context . This inhibitory control is monitored by the supervisory attentional system, which is the same system believed to be involved in general executive functions. Given their lifelong practice in suppressing their irrelevant language during speech, Bialystok suggested that bilinguals should show better performance than monolinguals in general inhibitory control . In the present analysis, I reviewed existing findings to investigate whether bilinguals showed this advantage in all inhibitory functions, or in specific functions that are more closely related to the inhibitory control in bilingual language use. Following Friedman and Miyake’s framework of inhibitory functions , I hypothesized that the bilingual advantage would appear predominantly in tasks that involve prepotent response inhibition and resistance to distractor interference, but not in those related to resistance to proactive interference. I further explored whether unbalanced bilinguals would show an additional advantage in prepotent response inhibition over balanced bilinguals, given their need to override their dominant first language when speaking their second language. Results of this analysis indicated that the bilingual advantage in inhibitory control was not consistently found in the literature. Nevertheless, there was some support for the hypothesis that this advantage was more commonly found in tasks related to prepotent response inhibition and resistance to distractor interference than in tasks related to resistance to proactive interference. More interestingly, the results also suggested that the bilingual advantage in the former two inhibitory functions differed across age groups, leading to the speculation that bilinguals’ development in these functions might follow distinct trajectories. Lastly, there was no evidence that unbalanced bilinguals had an additional advantage in prepotent response inhibition over balanced bilinguals. The findings of this analysis would provide directions for future research in bilingualism and inhibitory control.
 Green, D. W. (1998). Mental control of the bilingual lexico-semantic system. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 1, 67-81. doi: 10.1017/S1366728998000133
 Bialystok, E. (1999). Cognitive complexity and attentional control in the bilingual mind. Child Development, 70(3), 636-644. doi:10.1111/1467-8624.00046
 Friedman, N. P. & Miyake, A. (2004). The relations among inhibition and interference control functions: A latent-variable analysis. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 133(1), 101-135. doi: 10.1037/0096-3422.214.171.124