Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Reader 1

Megan Zirnstein


Much of the literature on bilingualism and cognitive control assumes that experience with negotiating cross-language competition, due to parallel activation, will lead to changes in domain general cognitive control ability. However, recent work (Zirnstein et al., 2018; Kroll et al., 2022) suggests that there may be individual differences in bilinguals’ ability to regulate the parallel activation states of their languages. In addition, it has been repeatedly demonstrated that physiological self-regulation (as indexed by changes in heart rate variability) predicts performance on cognitive control tasks (Colzato et al., 2018; Forte et al., 2019). In this study, we investigate (a) the potential relationship between bilingual language regulation (as indexed by a blocked picture naming task) and physiological self-regulation, and (b) how these two regulatory measures collectively influence domain-general cognitive control ability. ECG data was recorded from Spanish-English bilinguals who completed a picture-naming task—measuring inhibition and disinhibition of the first language (L1)—and the Dot Pattern Expectancy task (DPX), a braille version of the AX-CPT (Jones et al., 2010; Otto et al., 2014). Auditory tones on incorrect DPX trials induced a mild stress response, from which measures of physiological self-regulation were derived and compared to ECG recording of rest periods before and after administration of the DPX. Results indicate that performance on the DPX was predicted by both bilingual language regulation and physiological measures. This suggests that the literature on bilingual language control should be expanded to include the dynamic relationship between physiological self-regulation and regulation of the activation states of multiple languages.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.