Good language-switchers are good task-switchers: evidence from Spanish-English and Mandarin-English bilinguals

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2011 Jul;17(4):682-91. doi: 10.1017/S1355617711000580.


Bilingual advantages in executive control tasks are well documented, but it is not yet clear what degree or type of bilingualism leads to these advantages. To investigate this issue, we compared the performance of two bilingual groups and monolingual speakers in task-switching and language-switching paradigms. Spanish-English bilinguals, who reported switching between languages frequently in daily life, exhibited smaller task-switching costs than monolinguals after controlling for between-group differences in speed and parent education level. By contrast, Mandarin-English bilinguals, who reported switching languages less frequently than Spanish-English bilinguals, did not exhibit a task-switching advantage relative to monolinguals. Comparing the two bilingual groups in language-switching, Spanish-English bilinguals exhibited smaller costs than Mandarin-English bilinguals, even after matching for fluency in the non-dominant language. These results demonstrate an explicit link between language-switching and bilingual advantages in task-switching, while also illustrating some limitations on bilingual advantages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • China
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Multilingualism*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spain
  • United States
  • Verbal Behavior
  • Vocabulary
  • Young Adult