The effect of early bilingualism on working memory and related cognitive functions : a study on the Singaporean ageing population
Date of Issue2012
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
The current study explores the effects of balanced vs unbalanced early bilingualism on Working Memory (WM) and its related cognitive constructs such as executive control and lexical access with regards to aging. Tamil-English bilinguals aged between 45-55 who were matched on their L1 (Tamil) proficiency but only differing in L2 (English) proficiency completed a battery of WM-related tasks. Salvatierra and Rosselli (2010) studied late bilinguals and found that both balanced and unbalanced bilingualism mitigate age-related cognitive decline. Other studies are inconclusive about the effects of unbalanced bilingualism on cognitive functions. This study investigated the effect of early bilingualism because early bilingualism coupled with varying language proficiencies might have a greater effect in shaping cognitive abilities in contrast to late bilingualism. Following past studies, balanced bilinguals were expected to perform better than unbalanced bilinguals in tasks such as letter fluency, inhibition, shifting, updating and in tasks with added WM costs. However, our results showed that all bilinguals performed equivalently on all tasks except for updating, where balanced bilinguals showed a slight advantage, suggesting that early bilingualism and bilingual competence probably have a smaller effect on WM-related skills. Instead, the results suggest that frequency of use of both languages probably has a greater effect because all bilinguals in this study frequently used both languages on a daily basis.
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University