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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2012 Jan;38(1):211-7. doi: 10.1037/a0025162. Epub 2011 Aug 29.

Reasoning about other people's beliefs: bilinguals have an advantage.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA.


Bilingualism can have widespread cognitive effects. In this article we investigate whether bilingualism might have an effect on adults' abilities to reason about other people's beliefs. In particular, we tested whether bilingual adults might have an advantage over monolingual adults in false-belief reasoning analogous to the advantage that has been observed with bilingual children. Using a traditional false-belief task coupled with an eye-tracking technique, we found that adults in general suffer interference from their own perspective when reasoning about other people's beliefs. However, bilinguals are reliably less susceptible to this egocentric bias than are monolinguals. Moreover, performance on the false-belief task significantly correlated with performance on an executive control task. We argue that bilinguals' early sociolinguistic sensitivity and enhanced executive control may account for their advantage in false-belief reasoning.

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