COGNITIVE FLEXIBILITY IN BILINGUAL PRESCHOOL CHILDREN (NURSERY, COGNITION)
GERARD, PAULINE J.
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This study investigated the performance of monolingual and bilingual children on nonverbal tasks in an attempt to investigate cognitive flexibility. Cognitive flexibility was defined as the ability to shift from one concept to another and the ability to break set by recoding objects.;The subjects of the study were thirty-eight children who ranged in age from 3 years, 5 months to 5 years, 4 months. They were from Hispanic or Chinese background. Subjects were from lower class to lower middle class socioeconomic backgrounds and all attended a Head Start Center.;The experimental method consisted of determining a child's extent of bilinguality, dominant language, an I.Q. score, a task which measured the ability to shift from one concept to another, and a task which measured the ability to recode objects and break set. The extent of bilinguality was determined by utilizing a continuum that went from monolingual to bilingual. The I.Q. test and the other two tasks were nonverbal. All testing was in the child's dominant language.;It was expected that the more bilingual a child was the better she/he would perform on the tasks measuring cognitive flexibility.;The more bilingual children did not perform significantly better on the task which measured the ability to shift from one concept to another. However, there were indications of the bilingual children demonstrating strengths toward this direction.;The more bilingual children were able to recode objects and break set significantly better than the less bilingual and monolingual children.;An unexpected finding was the more bilingual children were able to form concepts significantly better than the less bilingual and monolingual children under the more difficult condition of conflicting cues being present. This was interpreted as a greater ability to analyze nonverbal material.;I.Q. did not significantly affect cognitive flexibility.;This study added further support to previous studies which have demonstrated cognitive advantages associated with bilinguality. This study added to previous research by quantifying bilinguality as continuous and not dichotomous and by demonstrating cognitive advantages associated with bilinguality on nonverbal tasks.