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Josee Rivest, Ana Janic, Patrick Cavanagh; Multitasking and MOT in bilinguals. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):281. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.10.281.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
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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