The Impact of Bilingualism on Executive Functions: a comparison of attentional and non-attentional task performance in (Arabid-English and Spanish-English) Bilinguals and Monolinguals

Marly Farag* & Hia Datta, PhD

The existence of a bilingual advantage in executive functioning remains unclear due to contradictory results in published studies. Executive functioning refers to a wide range of cognitive processes and abilities such as decision making, planning, attentional control, memory, language and perception (Cassidy, 2020). While a substantial number of studies investigating this theory of bilingual advantage produced results that support this notion, other studies claimed that this bilingual advantage is not related to executive functioning as a whole but rather a specific set of cognitive processes, specifically attentional and inhibitory control (Engel de Aubreu et al., 2012, Zhou & Krott 2018). A review of published literature suggested that a large number of studies were conducted on languages from the same Indo-European language (Privitera & Weekes, 2022). Therefore, the purpose of this study is to determine the extent of this bilingual advantage by comparing performance of monolingual and bilingual adults on attentional and non-attentional tasks. The Simon Task (Simon & Rudell, 1967) was utilized to assess attentional control and the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task (WCST) (Grant & Berg, 1948) was utilized to assess working memory, which was the non-attentional task. The study aimed to include an underrepresented language in the literature by recruiting Arabic-English speakers, Spanish-English speakers and monolingual English only speakers. For the purpose of this study, shortened versions of the Simon task and the WCST were provided by an online software known as PsyToolKit. Each participant was recorded on reaction time (RT) during the Simon task and accuracy for the WCST. Using ANOVA statistical analysis, each language group’s performance will be analyzed and compared between all three language groups to determine any potential differences in performance. This study will contribute to our knowledge of bilingual advantage and further examine the relationship between bilingualism and executive functioning. Additionally, by including two languages from different family trees, the study may provide a unique lens into how the type of language spoken by individuals can impact their cognition.