Interference suppression vs. response inhibition: An explanation for the absence of a bilingual advantage in preschoolers' Stroop task performance

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Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences


The well-documented advantage that bilingual speakers demonstrate across the lifespan on measures of controlled attention is not observed in preschoolers' performance on Stroop task variations. We examined the role of task demands in explaining this discrepancy. Whereas the Color/Word Stroop used with adult participants requires interference suppression, the Stroop task typically used with preschoolers requires only response inhibition. We developed an age-appropriate conflict task that measures interference suppression. Fifty-one preschool children (26 bilinguals) completed this new Bivalent Shape Task and the Day/Night task used in previous research. Bilingual in comparison to monolingual children performed better on incongruent trials of the Bivalent Shape Task, but did not differ on other measures. The results indicate that the discrepancy between preschoolers and older individuals in performance on Stroop task adaptations results from characteristics of the task rather than developmental differences. Further, the findings provide additional support for the importance of interference suppression as a mechanism underlying the bilingual advantage.

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© 2013 Elsevier Inc. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

Cognitive Development