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Experimentally induced language modes and regular code-switching habits boost bilinguals’ executive performance: evidence from a within-subject paradigm

Treffers-Daller, J. ORCID:, Ongun, Z., Hofweber, J. and Korenar, M. (2020) Experimentally induced language modes and regular code-switching habits boost bilinguals’ executive performance: evidence from a within-subject paradigm. Frontiers in Psychology, 11. pp. 1-23. ISSN 1664-1078

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To link to this item DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.542326


Bilingualism may modulate executive functions (EFs), but the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon are poorly understood. In this study, we investigated two potential sources of variability in bilinguals’ EF performance: (1) interactional contexts and codeswitching, and (2) dominance profiles. Previous research on code-switching often relied on self-reports of regular code-switching habits. In this study, we investigated the effects of experimentally induced language modes (single language versus codeswitching modes) on bilinguals’ EF performance. Crucially, in the bilingual conditions, we differentiated between different types of intra-sentential code-switching (Insertion, Alternation, and Dense code-switching). Moreover, we investigated the interaction of the effects of temporary language modes with bilinguals’ sociolinguistic codeswitching habits. All our participants were L1-dominant German–English bilinguals (N = 29) immersed in an L2 context. We assessed the effects of dominance by correlating individual bilinguals’ L1-dominance with their EF performance. In addition, we investigated whether language modes activate different EF patterns in bilinguals, as opposed to monolinguals,i.e., individuals who have no additional language to suppress. Based on models of bilingual language processing, we predicted our bilinguals to display the best EF performance in L2 single language contexts, as these require them to activate inhibitory schemata to suppress their dominant L1. Indeed, bilinguals performed better in the single language than in the code-switching conditions. The results also suggested that bilinguals activated more inhibitory control compared to monolinguals, supporting the notion that bilingual processing involves inhibition. The task conditions inducing different code-switching modes differed only in terms of the predictors explaining EF performance in the regression. We observed negative correlations between the frequency of engaging in a given type of code-switching and performance in language modes inducing non-corresponding control modes. The results suggested that Dense code-switching draws upon proactive control modes that differ from the reactive control involved in Alternation. Importantly, bilinguals’ dominance profiles played a crucial role in explaining EF performance. The more balanced individuals in our overall L1-dominant sample displayed better EF performance in the bilingual conditions, suggesting that more balanced bilingualism trains the control modes involved in code-switching. This highlights the importance of assessing bilinguals’ sociolinguistic profiles in bilingualism research.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism (CeLM)
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Language and Applied Linguistics
ID Code:93916
Uncontrolled Keywords:code-switching, language modes, multilingualism, executive functions, cognition
Publisher:Frontiers Media


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