Cognitive control and lexical access in younger and older bilinguals

J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2008 Jul;34(4):859-73. doi: 10.1037/0278-7393.34.4.859.


Ninety-six participants, who were younger (20 years) or older (68 years) adults and either monolingual or bilingual, completed tasks assessing working memory, lexical retrieval, and executive control. Younger participants performed most of the tasks better than older participants, confirming the effect of aging on these processes. The effect of language group was different for each type of task: Monolinguals and bilinguals performed similarly on working memory tasks, monolinguals performed better on lexical retrieval tasks, and bilinguals performed better on executive control tasks, with some evidence for larger language group differences in older participants on the executive control tasks. These results replicate findings from individual studies obtained using only 1 type of task and different participants. The confirmation of this pattern in the same participants is discussed in terms of a suggested explanation of how the need to manage 2 language systems leads to these different outcomes for cognitive and linguistic functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Middle Aged
  • Multilingualism*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Vocabulary*