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Dev Psychobiol. 2014 Jul;56(5):1156-63. doi: 10.1002/dev.21188. Epub 2013 Dec 7.

Flexible memory retrieval in bilingual 6-month-old infants.

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Department of Psychology, P.O. Box 571001, White-Gravenor Hall 306, Washington, DC, 200057.


Memory flexibility is a hallmark of the human memory system. As indexed by generalization between perceptually dissimilar objects, memory flexibility develops gradually during infancy. A recent study has found a bilingual advantage in memory generalization at 18 months of age [Brito and Barr [2012] Developmental Science, 15, 812-816], and the present study examines when this advantage may first emerge. In the current study, bilingual 6-month-olds were more likely than monolinguals to generalize to a puppet that differed in two features (shape and color) than monolingual 6-month-olds. When challenged with a less complex change, two puppets that differed only in one feature--color, monolingual 6-month-olds were also able to generalize. These findings demonstrate early emerging differences in memory generalization in bilingual infants, and have important implications for our understanding of how early environmental variations shape the trajectory of memory development.


bilingualism; cognitive development; generalization; infant; memory

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