An ERP investigation of cognitive control in bilinguals
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT REQUEST OF AUTHOR.] Bilingualism is known to impact both language processing and cognitive abilities. The effects on cognitive abilities have been found to be generally positive suggesting that bilinguals have better cognitive control relative to monolinguals. The present study evaluated the time course of attentional control, specifically, conflict resolution in bilinguals and monolinguals. Bilinguals and English monolingual controls performed a Flanker task, while their behavioral (response times, accuracy rates) and electrophysiological responses were recorded on each trial. Participants exhibited the standard behavioral effect on the Flanker task: slower and less accurate responses to incongruent than congruent trials. The electrophysiological data showed that participants also exhibited larger N2 and P3 mean amplitudes to incongruent relative to congruent trials. No group differences were detected in behavioral performance. The electrophysiological data revealed that while both groups exhibited a larger N2 response to incongruent trials, the P3 response extended over a longer time window for monolinguals than bilinguals. The results are interpreted as suggesting that bilinguals may be more efficient in resolving conflict than monolinguals. Since this difference in performance is masked in behavioral data, the study also suggests that the elusive bilingual advantage may be best captured by fine-grained measures of processing rather than button-press behavioral measures.
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