Publication Date

Summer 2015

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Matthew Shake (Director), Lance Hahn, and Jenni Redifer

Degree Program

Department of Psychological Sciences

Degree Type

Master of Science


The unique linguistic experience of bilingualism purportedly produces cognitive control advantages. Although there is a significant body of evidence supporting this view, there are also several recently published research studies that failed to replicate bilingual advantages. Furthermore, there is some evidence of a publication bias that favors findings supporting a bilingual advantage. The purpose of this study was to address this discrepancy in the literature by examining performance of bilinguals and monolinguals on a variety of cognitive control tasks. A second purpose was to determine how bilinguals are able to achieve better performance if they do indeed have an advantage. Specifically, we were interested in whether there were differences in the tendency for bilinguals and monolinguals to mind wander, a phenomenon associated with poorer cognitive control performance. We hypothesized that bilinguals would demonstrate better performance than monolinguals on Operation Span, Numerical Stroop, SART, Color- Shape, and Letter Memory tasks, which are measures of working memory, proactive inhibition, reactive inhibition, shifting, and updating, respectively. We further hypothesized that if bilinguals outperformed monolinguals on these tasks, this would be associated with less mind wandering for bilinguals. Participants completed all measures of cognitive control and were probed periodically throughout the tasks for mind wandering. Accuracy and reaction times where appropriate were recorded for each task, and data from 52 monolinguals and 52 bilinguals were analyzed. The results did not reveal any bilingual advantages. For all tasks, performance of the two groups was equivalent with the exception that monolinguals had faster reaction times for Numerical Stroop, SART, and Color-Shape tasks. There were also no differences between language groups in mind wandering tendencies. Secondary analyses examining age of acquisition (i.e., early versus late) and similarity of languages (i.e., same-script versus differentscript) did not change the overall pattern of no bilingual advantages. The lack of a bilingual advantage supports recent calls to temper bilingual advantage claims and shows a need for future research to address which underlying factors of bilingualism may or may not have an effect on cognitive control.


Experimental Analysis of Behavior | Psychology