IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Some healthy scepticism regarding bilingualism and enhanced executive functioning

14 November 2022, 6:00 pm–7:30 pm

Person writing on chalkboard. Photo by Leonardo Toshiro Okubo on Unsplash

Join this event to hear Professor Kenneth Paap discuss the effectiveness of bilingual advantage on executive-functioning (EF).

This event is free.

Event Information

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Roberto Filippi

In this webinar, the speaker will point out that several, or perhaps the majority of prominent bilingualism researchers, believe that managing two or more languages enhances domain-general EF.  

However, seven high-quality and recent meta-analyses converge on the common finding that the effect-size of the bilingual advantage is very small and that when corrected for publication bias is no longer distinguishable from zero.

Large-scale studies, using highly-proficient early bilinguals living in language communities where switching occurs frequently, generally report no effects of bilingualism on EF. He will offer reasons for these null results:

  1. bilingual language control may not require significantly more EF than monolingual language control,
  2. highly proficient control in using and coordinating multiple languages, like any skill, is mostly the product of shifting from effort demanding controlled processes to less demanding, highly automatic, and domain-specific processing, and
  3. there is no such thing as a domain-general EF ability that can be enhanced through specific experiences.

With respect to a related hypothesis, he will also show that in longitudinal-cohort studies bilingualism is much less effective in delaying the onset or incidence of dementia compared to other cognitively stimulating activities.

This event will be particularly useful for those interested in multilingualism.

Multilingualism and Diversity: Impact on Education, Health and Society seminar series

This seminar series aims to bridge science with practice in education. Leading experts in linguistics, psychological sciences and neurosciences will engage with education practitioners, parents, students and members of the public who have an interest in multicultural diversity and inclusion. 

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About the Speaker

Professor Kenneth Paap

Director of the Language, Attention and Cognitive Engineering (LACE) at San Francisco State University

He was trained as an Experimental Psychologist at the University of Wisconsin and has published on a wide variety of topics: visual space perception, adaptation to optical transformations, speech perception, visual word recognition, attention and automaticity, human-computer interaction, knowledge elicitation and representation, executive functioning, and bilingual language control.

In 30 years at New Mexico State University he served as a Professor, Department Head, and Dean of a college of arts and sciences. In the last 18 years at San Francisco State University (USA) he served as vice-president for research and now directs the LACE laboratory.