September 2015
Volume 15, Issue 12
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2015
Attentional Switching in Bilingual and Monolingual Infants: An Eye Movement Study
Author Affiliations
  • Mahta Kakvan
    York University
  • Audrey Wong Kee You
    York University
  • Scott Adler
    York University
Journal of Vision September 2015, Vol.15, 1263. doi:
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      Mahta Kakvan, Audrey Wong Kee You, Scott Adler; Attentional Switching in Bilingual and Monolingual Infants: An Eye Movement Study. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):1263.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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The process of switching between two languages may equip bilinguals with enhanced cognitive control abilities. Research has suggested that executive function mechanisms in bilinguals are enhanced as a result of switching between two languages (Norman & Shallice, 1986; Miller & Cohen, 2001). Much research has revealed bilingual advantages in these cognitive control abilities, particularly the capacity to switch attention, during childhood and adulthood. In the current study, using a paradigm called Visual Expectation Cueing Paradigm (Adler et al., 2007), we examined infants’ attentional switching capacities as function of their language environment in order to further understand the effect of exposure to bilingual environment on early visual cognition. Seven-month-old infants, raised in either a monolingual or bilingual environment, viewed stimulus cues presented randomly in a screen’s center, each of which predicted a target appearing on either the left or right side of the screen during a pre-switch phase. During the post-switch phase, infants viewed the same cue and target stimuli but with a cue-target spatial predictability opposite to that experienced during the pre-switch phase. Infants’ anticipatory eye movements were measured to see if infants could inhibit the cue-target spatial predictability learned during the pre-switch phase and switch attention and learn the new cue-target spatial predictability. Results indicated that both bilinguals and monolinguals exhibited equivalent levels of overall anticipatory eye movements. Bilingually-exposed infants’ correct anticipations of the target were significantly higher than monolingually-exposed infants’ during the last 50% of the post-switch phase. This finding suggests that infants exposed to a bilingual environment are better able to control and switch their attentional processing, thereby learning the new predictability pattern. Thus, the bilingual advantage previously exhibited in adults and children, is likely also present in infants who are simply exposed to a bilingual environment.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015


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