Publication Abstract Display
Type: Poster
Title: Bilingual advantages on test performance persist after controlling for education among Spanish speakers tested in their native language.
Authors: Suarez P, Gollan T, Heaton R, Cherner M
Date: 02-06-2013
Abstract:Objective : Previous studies suggest an advantage of bilingualism on certain executive function tasks. However, bilingualism and education tend to be highly correlated in these studies. We therefore attempted to isolate effects of bilingualism on test performance with bilingual and monolingual Spanish speakers matched for education. Participants and Methods: Participants were 23 male and 23 female, adult native Spanish speakers from the U.S.–Mexico border region with mean (SD) age of 37.4 (9.5) and 10.7 (4.4) years of education. Spanish preference was ascertained using a language use questionnaire. The Controlled Oral Association Test was administered (PMR in Spanish, FAS in English) to confirm relative language dominance and fluency. Participants where divided into groups based on their relative English fluency, calculated as the ratio of English words to the total in both languages (0-0.33 = monolingual; 0.34-0.66 = bilingual). Participants in the upper tertile were excluded. Participants received a comprehensive neuropsychological battery in Spanish. Effects of bilingualism on test performance were examined as means comparisons with education matched groups covarying for effects of age and sex. Results : Despite comparable education levels, bilinguals out-performed monolinguals on tests of processing speed (Digit Symbol, and Symbol Search, Stroop Color Naming), attention/working memory (Letter Number Sequencing, Digit Span), and executive function (Trail Making Test B, Stroop Color-Word) with some additional, unexpected advantages in memory (Aprendizaje de Palabras Delayed Recall, Figure Memory Delayed Recall). No differences were found in other domains. Conclusions : Findings suggest that bilingual advantages on test performance cannot be explained by differences in education. These results imply that bilingualism likely confers a true neuropsychological advantage that needs to be considered when interpreting test performance, adding complexity to the generation and application of test norms in bilingual groups.

return to publications listing