The bilingual advantage in switching: Are two better than one?



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Most previous studies of the bilingual advantage analyzed speed and accuracy results from the same task separately. Using this method, some found advantages in switching tasks that favor bilinguals while others have not, and there is ongoing controversy regarding the existence of the bilingual advantage. The present study sought to examine the bilingual advantage in non-verbal switching using a novel multilevel structural equations modeling (ML-SEM) framework that incorporated both reaction time and accuracy in order to assess the trial level and person level relationship between these variables. In addition, the roles of parental education level (PED) and language proficiency were examined. The results of this model did not indicate the existence of a bilingual advantage, and there were no significant correlations between reaction time and accuracy at the person level or at the trial level. The lack of significant correlation may be due to high overall accuracy in the task. English proficiency was a significant predictor of reaction time in both bilinguals and monolinguals, such that higher proficiency was related to faster responses. In the monolinguals, higher English proficiency was also related to more accurate performance, a relationship that was non-existent in the bilinguals. In the bilinguals, Spanish proficiency was a significant predictor of reaction time, such that higher proficiency was associated with slower responses. This finding, along with the significance of English proficiency as a predictor of performance in both groups, calls into question the non-verbal nature of this task. No significant effect of PED was found. This study showcases a novel methodology that may encourage future researchers to examine both reaction time and accuracy together, suggests that bilingualism may serve to specifically tune accuracy, and highlights the importance of considering language background variables even when using tasks that are not explicitly verbal in nature.



Bilingualism, Switching, Shape-color