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Psychol Res. 2015 May;79(3):371-9. doi: 10.1007/s00426-014-0575-3. Epub 2014 May 23.

Two is better than one: bilingual education promotes the flexible mind.

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Institute for Psychological Research and Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands,


The interest in the influence of bilingualism on our daily life is constantly growing. Speaking two languages (or more) requires people to develop a flexible mindset to rapidly switch back and forth between languages. This study investigated whether and to what extent attending bilingual education benefits cognitive control. We tested two groups of Dutch high-school students who either followed regular classes in Dutch or were taught in both English and Dutch. They performed on a global-local switching paradigm that provides well-established measures of cognitive flexibility and attentional processing style. As predicted, the bilingually educated group showed smaller switching costs (i.e., greater cognitive flexibility) and a decreased global precedence effect than the regular group. Our findings support the idea that bilingual education promotes cognitive flexibility and a bias towards a more focused "scope" of attention.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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