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Lecture Series of the Project Group "Language Dynamics Across the Life Span"

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The impact of multilingualism on executive function across the lifespan
When Nov 28, 2016
from 02:15 PM to 03:45 PM
Where FRIAS, Albertstr. 19, lecture hall
Attendees öffentlich / open to the public
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The impact of multilingualism on executive function across the lifespan

JunProf. Greg Poarch (University of Münster)

There has been a recent upsurge in null-result findings in studies comparing monolinguals and multilinguals performing non-verbal tasks, which has fueled the debate about the effects of multilingualism on executive function (EF). Previously, there had been converging evidence of enhanced cognitive functions in conflict resolution tasks (e.g., Simon Task, Flanker Task), particularly for multilingual children and older adults compared to age-matched monolinguals (Kroll & Bialystok, 2013). It is assumed that enhanced EF in multilinguals stems from their pervasive need to monitor, control, and shift between multiple languages. Hence, the training accrued through sustained language control may have an effect on non-verbal cognitive control, a view also supported by neurophysiological findings indicating EF networks being engaged, for example, during language switching tasks (e.g., Abutalebi, 2013; Abutalebi & Green, 2008). However, given several null-result findings, is is now pertinent to reassess the relevant factors to which the inconsistent results may be attributed. Such factors could be, for example, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds of the individuals tested (Hilchey & Klein, 2011) or the language environment and language switching behaviors of the multilinguals (Green & Abutalebi, 2013). Against this backdrop, in my talk, I will review some of the more recent studies with a focus on the entire lifespan (i.e., children, young adults, older adults).



Abutalebi, J. (2013). Bilingualism beyond languages: The impact of bilingualism upon the brain. Physics of Life Reviews, 10, 444–445.

Abutalebi, J., & Green, D. W. (2008). Control mechanisms in bilingual language production: Neural evidence from language switching studies. Language and Cognitive Processes, 23, 557–582.

* Green, D. W., & Abutalebi, J. (2013). Language control in bilinguals: The adaptive control hypothesis. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 25, 515–530.

Hilchey, M. D., & Klein, R. M. (2011). Are there bilingual advantages on nonlinguistic interference tasks? Implications for the plasticity of executive control processes. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 18, 625–658.

* Kroll, J. F., & Bialystok, E. (2013). Understanding the consequences of bilingualism for language processing and cognition. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 25, 497–514.


* Reading suggestions for students.

Overview of all lectures within the series "Language Dynamics across the Life Span"