Dual-tasking while using two languages: Examining the cognitive resource demands of cued and voluntary language production in bilinguals

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The way bilinguals switch languages can differ depending on the context. In cued dual-language environments, bilinguals select a language in response to environmental cues (e.g., a monolingual conversation partner). In voluntary dual-language environments, bilinguals communicating with people who speak the same languages can use their languages more freely. The control demands of these types of language-production contexts, and the costs of language switches, have been argued to differ (Adaptive Control Hypothesis, Green & Abutalebi, 2013). Here we used a dual-task paradigm to examine how cued and voluntary bilingual production differ in cognitive resources used. Forty Mandarin-English bilinguals completed two language-switching paradigms as the primary task; one in response to cues and one while using two languages freely. At the same time, they also had to respond to the pitch of tones (secondary task). Response times (RTs) on the secondary task, as well as naming times on the primary task, were shorter in the voluntary- than cued-naming condition. Task workload ratings were also higher in the cued- than voluntary-naming condition. This suggests more attentional resources are needed in a cued-naming context to monitor cues and select languages accordingly. However, the costs associated with switching from one language to the other were similar in both voluntary and cued naming contexts. Thus, while cued naming might be more effortful overall, cued and voluntary switching recruited similar levels of cognitive resources.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalQuarterly journal of experimental psychology (2006)
Early online date21 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2023

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