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J Exp Child Psychol. 2014 Oct;126:412-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2014.03.004. Epub 2014 May 27.

Inhibitory processes in visual perception: a bilingual advantage.

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Cognition Institute, School of Psychology, University of Plymouth, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK. Electronic address:
Department of Psychology, University of Salzburg, 5020 Salzburg, Austria.


Bilingual inhibitory control advantages are well established. An open question is whether inhibitory superiority also extends to visual perceptual phenomena that involve inhibitory processes. This research used ambiguous figures to assess inhibitory bilingual superiority in 3-, 4-, and 5-year-old mono- and bilingual children (N=141). Findings show that bilinguals across all ages are superior in inhibiting a prevalent interpretation of an ambiguous figure to perceive the alternative interpretation. In contrast, mono- and bilinguals revealed no differences in understanding that an ambiguous figure can have two distinct referents. Together, these results suggest that early bilingual inhibitory control superiority is also evident in visual perception. Bilinguals' conceptual understanding of figure ambiguity is comparable to that of their monolingual peers.


Ambiguous figures; Bilingualism; Inhibitory processes; Pictorial representation; Representational development; Reversal

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