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Is Early Bilingual Experience Associated with Greater Fluid Intelligence in Adults?

D’Souza, D. ORCID: 0000-0002-3053-2484 & Dakhch, Y. (2022). Is Early Bilingual Experience Associated with Greater Fluid Intelligence in Adults?. Languages, 7(2), 100. doi: 10.3390/languages7020100


Emerging evidence suggests that early bilingual experience constrains the development of attentional processes in infants, and that some of these early bilingual adaptations could last into adulthood. However, it is not known whether the early adaptations in the attentional domain alter more general cognitive abilities. If they do, then we would expect that bilingual adults who learned their second language early in life would score more highly across cognitive tasks than bilingual adults who learned their second language later in life. To test this hypothesis, 170 adult participants were administered a well-established (non-verbal) measure of fluid intelligence: Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices (RAPM). Fluid intelligence (the ability to solve novel reasoning problems, independent of acquired knowledge) is highly correlated with numerous cognitive abilities across development. Performance on the RAPM was greater in bilinguals than monolinguals, and greater in ‘early bilinguals’ (adults who learned their second language between 0–6 years) than ‘late bilinguals’ (adults who learned their second language after age 6 years). The groups did not significantly differ on a proxy of socioeconomic status. These results suggest that the difference in fluid intelligence between bilinguals and monolinguals is not a consequence of bilingualism per se, but of early adaptive processes. However, the finding may depend on how bilingualism is operationalized, and thus needs to be replicated with a larger sample and more detailed measures.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: bilingual advantage; bilingualism; child development; early bilingual; fluid reasoning; multiple-demand (MD) system; Raven’s Progressive Matrices
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution International Public License 4.0.

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