Examining the Time Course of Attention in Monolinguals and Bilinguals
Chung-Fat-Yim, Ashley Kim
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There is converging evidence demonstrating that lifelong experience managing multiple languages on a regular basis has consequences for both language and cognition. Across the lifespan, bilinguals tend to outperform monolinguals on tasks that require selective attention. Compared to studies on children and older adults, these effects are less consistently observed in young adults. The majority of the research with young adults use relatively simple tasks that yield fast reaction times and accuracy rates at ceiling. In addition, these measures capture the endpoint of a chain of dynamic cognitive processes. Hence, the goal of the dissertation was to integrate two time-sensitive methodologies, mouse-tracking and eye-tracking, to examine whether monolinguals and bilinguals differ in the processes engaged between the time a response is initiated to when a response is selected. To assess cognitive performance, young adult and older adult monolinguals and bilinguals were administered the global-local task and oculomotor Stroop task while their eye-movements and mouse-movements were recorded. Both tasks involved focusing on one feature of the stimulus, while ignoring the other feature. When standard analyses of mean reaction time and accuracy were performed, no differences between language groups were observed in either age group. The mouse-tracking measures revealed that similar to experts, young adult bilinguals were slower to initiate a response than young adult monolinguals, while older adult bilinguals had a higher maximum velocity than older adult monolinguals. By using time-sensitive methodologies, we gain a deeper understanding of the cognitive processes associated with attention that are impacted by bilingualism during decision-making.