Bilingualism affects infant cognition: Evidence from new and reanalyzed data
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Description: Bilingualism has been hypothesized to shape domain-general cognitive abilities across the lifespan, in what some have called the “bilingual advantage”. Here, we examined the replicability of a seminal study that showed monolingual–bilingual differences in infancy (Kovács & Mehler, 2009a) by collecting new data from 7-month-olds and 20-month-olds and reanalyzing three open datasets from 7–9 month-olds (D’Souza et al., 2020, Experiment 1; Kalashikova et al., 2020, Visual and Auditory conditions). All infants (total N = 181) were tested in an anticipatory eye movement paradigm, where they learned to use a visual and/or auditory cue to anticipate a visual reward presented consistently on one side of a screen during training, and on the opposite side of the screen at test. To correctly anticipate the reward at test, infants had to update their previously learned behavior. Across 3 out of 4 studies, results from a new analytic approach showed that 7–9 month-old bilinguals were better able to update the previously-learned response at test (a “bilingual advantage”), which could be related to bilinguals’ weaker initial learning of the contingency during the learning phase (a “monolingual advantage”). At 20 months, bilinguals performed better at test, though groups showed similar performance during the learning phase. Overall, these results show that bilingualism affects how infants process both new and updated information during learning.