Second language proficiency and its effects on cognitive functions: : Relations between bilingualism and tactile and visual versions of the Simon task

University essay from Umeå universitet/Institutionen för psykologi; Umeå universitet/Institutionen för psykologi


Bilinguals have repeatedly shown to have better results than monolinguals in non-verbal cognitive tasks that require inhibition of distracting stimuli. Evidence suggests that this enhanced performance is due to training effects of non domain specific executive functions, and that this gain in cognitive performance can contribute to a cognitive reserve in old age. One of the most frequently used methods when studying the relationship between second language proficiency and cognitive abilities is the Simon task in the visual sensory modality. The present study aimed to determine if the advantage found in the visual Simon task also could apply to a tactile Simon task. The sample consisted of 40 individuals aged 43 to 64 with different levels in their second language. An operational span test (OSPAN) was used to control for working memory capacity. No significant correlation was found between bilingualism and the Simon effect in either modality. Since the study has low statistical power and a small range in second language proficiency, it was concluded that further research investigating whether the bilingual advantage found in the visual Simon task can be found across modalities is necessary before any conclusions regarding a relationship between bilingualism and cognitive control can be made. 

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