John G. Grundy & Ellen Bialystok (York University, Toronto ON)
Conflict adaptation; Sequential congruency effects; Bilingual advantage; Disengagement; Language
Behavioral evidence for cognitive control changes as a function of bilingualism on conflict resolution tasks and other higher-order executive function tasks has accrued for infants, children, adolescents, and older adults. Surprisingly however, this performance benefit is less consistently found in the young adult population. This has led some researchers to believe that there is no cognitive control advantage at all for bilinguals. Given that a bilingual advantage has been reported across the lifespan in multiple areas of cognitive control, we explored the possibility that previous analyses may have been too simplistic for the young adult population who are at peak cognitive performance. We examined the possibility that null performance effects on one of the most commonly used conflict resolution tasks in young adults come about by not taking into account the influence of conflict on previous trials. Bilinguals and monolinguals completed a flanker interference task. When we examined the typical flanker interference effect (difference between incongruent and congruent RTs), no effects involving group emerged. However, when we included previous trial congruency as a factor in the analysis, it was clear that bilinguals were less influenced by previous trial congruency than were monolinguals. We suggest that bilinguals are better able to rapidly disengage attention from previous trial congruency.