September 2019
Volume 19, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2019
Multitasking and MOT in bilinguals
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Josee Rivest
    Department of Psychology, Glendon College, Toronto, ON, Canada
    1. Centre for Vision Research, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada
  • Ana Janic
    Department of Psychology, Glendon College, Toronto, ON, Canada
    Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
  • Patrick Cavanagh
    Department of Psychology, Glendon College, Toronto, ON, Canada
    1. Centre for Vision Research, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada
    1. Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA
Journal of Vision September 2019, Vol.19, 281. doi:
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      Josee Rivest, Ana Janic, Patrick Cavanagh; Multitasking and MOT in bilinguals. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):281.

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

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Introduction. Speaking more than one language has been associated with enhanced cognitive capacities (e.g. Bialystok & Craik, 2010; Kapa & Colombo, 2013, Bialystok & Viswanathan, 2009, Marian & Shook, 2012). Here we evaluated whether bilingual individuals also have advantages in a purely visual task: attentive tracking. Method. Adult bilingual (n=35, age: M = 20.03, SD = 2.74) and monolingual (n=36, age: M = 20.43, SD = 3.06) participants ran in the Multiple Object Tracking task (MOT, TELlab) in which three out of eight randomly moving disks were targets. To determine a 75% correct speed threshold, the speed of the disks increased from 3.58 to 8.68 deg/s across 5 sessions. In one condition, the MOT was performed while participants counted backward out loud in their mother tongue, and in a second condition, it was performed without the distracting task. Results. As expected, the speed threshold was lower (performance is worse) when counting backward for both monolinguals and bilinguals, F (1, 68) = 436.94, p < 0.000001, h2 = 0.87, β = 1.00. Without distraction, the bilinguals’ threshold did not differ from that of monolinguals’ (6.80±0.84 vs 7.19±0.92 deg/s), whereas with distraction, bilinguals’s threshold was significantly higher (better) that of monolinguals [5.84±0.89 vs 4.36±0.62 deg/s (interaction between the Language Ability and Distractor, F (1, 68) = 106.27, p < 0.000001, h2 = 0.61, β = 1.00). The difference in the effect of distraction is striking: for bilinguals, counting backward barely decreased their threshold (0.96 deg/s), but, for monolinguals, it decreased three times as much (2.94 deg/s). Conclusion. Bilingualism confers advantages in a purely visual attention task when multitasking is required. Our results represent additional evidence that bilingualism affords cognitive benefits beyond that of verbal domain.


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