Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis


W.M. Keck Science Department

Second Department


Reader 1

Timothy Justus

Reader 2

Michael Spezio

Rights Information

© 2014 Irina Rabkina


Two conflicting findings characterize cognitive processing accompanying bilingualism. The “bilingual advantage” refers to improved cognitive performance for bilingual compared to monolingual participants. Most bilingual advantages fall under the umbrella of cognitive control mechanisms, most frequently demonstrated using the Stroop task and the Simon task (e.g., Bialystok, 2008; Coderre, Van Heuven, & Conklin, 2013). The “bilingual disadvantage,” on the other hand, refers to bilinguals’ diminished performance on tasks that require word retrieval or switching between languages. This study examined the intersection of the bilingual advantage and the bilingual disadvantage to investigate whether they stem from a single cognitive control process. The bilingual advantage was measured as speech onset time differences between monolingual and bilingual participants in the Stroop task after being primed in the same language (i.e., English prime and English Stroop for monolinguals, and either English prime and English Stroop or Spanish prime and Spanish Stroop for bilinguals). The bilingual disadvantage was measured as differences in bilingual participants’ speech onset times between the same-language conditions described above and cross-language conditions (i.e., either English prime and Spanish Stroop or Spanish prime and English Stroop). Monolinguals performed better than bilinguals did on the same-language Stroop [F(3,1) = 83.5, p < 0.001, MSE = 15415], so a bilingual advantage was not demonstrated. However, bilinguals did perform better in same-language blocks than cross-language blocks [F(7,3) = 24.6, p < 0.001, MSE = 22648]. This suggests that the current protocol successfully elicits the bilingual disadvantage. Further research is needed to evaluate whether the same cognitive control processes are responsible for the two effects. Possible extensions of this work include observing a larger number of participants to rule out between-subjects effects and using a button press rather than spoken response during the Stroop task.