The Unexpected Cognitive Benefits of Growing Up in a Bilingual Home

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New research has found that growing up in a bilingual home can provide unexpected cognitive benefits later in life, according to its authors in the journal “Scientific Reports.”

The study shows for the first time that adults who acquired their second language as young children (early bilinguals) they are quicker to switch attention and faster to detect visual changes compared to adults who learned their second language later in life (late bilinguals).

Led by Dr Dean D’Souza of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in the UK, the research enrolled 127 adults in two separate experiments. The first involved viewing images on a screen, one image that changes gradually and the other remains the same. The early bilinguals noticed these changes much faster than the late ones.

The second experiment found that early bilinguals controlled their attention better. Specifically, they were quicker to divert attention from one image to shift its focus to another.

The team had previously found that babies raised in bilingual homes adapt to their more varied and unpredictable language environment by change your visual attention more quickly and frequency. The findings of this new study suggest that these adaptations acquired as bilingual babies continue into adulthood.

D’Souza, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), notes that “this study is an interesting extension of that earlier research, which suggested that babies raised in bilingual homes they adapt to their more complex language environments by changing attention faster and more frequently. ‘

As he highlights, “this adaptation can help them take advantage of multiple sources of visual information, such as mouth movements, subtle facial expressions and gestures, which will ultimately help them learn multiple languages. Findings from our new research with bilingual adults suggest that some of these adaptations, including the rapidity to shift attention, persist into adulthood, “he says.

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