A bilingual advantage in visual language discrimination in infancy

TitleA bilingual advantage in visual language discrimination in infancy
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsSebastian-Galles, N., Albareda-Castellot B., Weikum W. M., & Werker J. F.
JournalPsychological Science
Pagination994 - 999


The early origins of the bilingual advantage in different cognitive tasks are largely unknown. We have tested the hypothesis that a bilingual’s early capacities to track separately and learn about the properties of each of their native languages may be at the origin of such differences. Bilingual Spanish-Catalan and monolingual Spanish or Catalan infants were tested on their ability to discriminate silent video recordings of bilingual French-English speakers first reciting sentences in one of the languages, and then in the other. Their performance was compared to previously tested (Weikum et al., 2007) French-English bilingual and English monolingual infants. While all groups of monolingual infants failed to detect the change between English and French, both groups of bilinguals succeeded. These findings reveal that bilingual experience can modulate the attentional system even without explicit training or feedback. They provide a basis for explaining the ontogeny of the general cognitive advantages seen in bilinguals.