Doctoral Dissertation Research: Are bilinguals better learners? A neurocognitive investigation of the bilingual advantage

Project: Research project

Project Details


With National Science Foundation support, Ms. Cari Bogulski will collect data for her doctoral dissertation under the direction of Dr. Judith Kroll and Dr. Janet van Hell. Current research demonstrates that bilinguals are often advantaged relative to their monolingual counterparts on tasks that require cognitive control. A few past studies have also identified a bilingual advantage in the realm of word learning. However, these documented benefits of bilingualism are largely correlational, with little known about the underlying mechanisms that map language use to cognition and learning. One possibility is that all of the documented benefits of bilingualism reflect the effects of the constant mental juggling a bilingual at any age must exercise, as both of a bilingual's two languages appear to be active even when one language alone is required. Alternatively, different aspects of language use may map onto different types of cognitive consequences. The proposed research seeks to uncover the way that the use of multiple languages affects language learning as well as learning in other domains. The planned experiments will test the scope of the bilingual advantage in foreign language vocabulary learning by using electrophysiological measures that may provide a more sensitive index of the time course of early learning, compare the learning of linguistic and nonlinguistic information, and determine whether the bilingual advantage can be seen in the learning of a signed vs. spoken language. The goal of this set of experiments is to identify the cognitive mechanisms that underlie foreign vocabulary learning, and thus, to identify how learning a foreign language can be strategically enhanced.

The funded research has a number of broader implications. It will contribute important foundational knowledge about multilingualism that will inform educational issues in a society in which many learners are faced with the task of acquiring a second language past the earliest stages of childhood. The research will also contribute to the training of an increasingly diverse group of language scientists by including undergraduate research students who are themselves bilingual and by fostering scientific collaboration at Gallaudet University to include signed as well as spoken languages.

Effective start/end date8/15/1112/31/13


  • National Science Foundation: $11,991.00


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