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Bilingualism facilitates the monitoring of different cognitive control mechanisms

Julia Morales (University of Granada), Carlos J. Gómez-Ariza (University of Jaen) & Teresa Bajo (University of Granada)


Bilingualism; Flanker task; Interference suppression; Monitoring; Response inhibition

Recent research shows that bilinguals excel monolinguals in coordinating different executive functions [1] [2]. We further explored this idea by employing an adapted version of the flanker task, which allowed for the measurement of interference suppression (congruent vs. incongruent trials) and response inhibition (go/no-go blocks). Importantly, we could also observe the performance with varying task demands. In the conflict condition, participants must ignore the flanking distractors and focus only on the direction of the target chevron to suppress interference. In the go/no-go blocks participants needed to pay attention to the flanking information to respond. Crucially, apart from these single blocks, there were mixed blocks (composed by intermixed trials of go/no-go and conflict blocks) that required an increase of monitoring resources since participants needed to process the flanking information and use it or ignore it depending on the demands of the trial.

In line with previous research, our results indicated that bilingualism benefited the performance in the mixed condition, where different cognitive control resources needed to work together to achieve the highest efficiency. We relate these results to the performance in the AX-Continuous Performance Task (AX-CPT), which also requires participants to combine different control mechanisms (e.g., to withhold a prepotent response while maintaining context information). These data provide further support for the idea that bilingualism modulates the functioning of a whole cascade of processes engaged in cognitive control.



[1] Costa, A., Hernández, M., Costa-Faidella, J., Sebastián-Gallés, N. On the bilingual advantage in conflict processing: now you see it, now you don’t. Cognition, 113: 135–149, 2009.

[2] Morales, J., Yudes, C., Gómez-Ariza, C.J. & Bajo, M.T. Bilingualism modulates dual mechanisms of cognitive control: Evidence from ERPs. Neuropsychologia, 66: 157-169. 2015.

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