Tag Archives: Cognition

UIC TiL: Cristina Sanz

This Wednesday, March 30th, Dr. Cristina Sanz of Georgetown University will be presenting a talk entitled, “Bilingualism, Cognitive Capacity & Pedagogical Conditions” (abstract below).

Join us at 3 PM in 1750 University Hall (601 S. Morgan St. Chicago, IL 60607) for the talk and as usual light refreshments will be provided.

Bilingualism, Cognitive Capacity & Pedagogical Conditions

This presentation will report on a series of studies on the interaction between external pedagogical conditions and individual variables, especially those related to bilingualism and cognition. The studies have been conducted within The Latin Project (TLP) paradigm (Sanz, Bowden, & Stafford, N=400+), and have until today looked at a combination of different L1s (English, Spanish, Mandarin) and L2s (Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish, English) using a mini-version of Latin as experimental language. Specifically, TLP operationalizes pedagogical conditions in terms of timing and amount of provision of explicit grammar rules in conjunction with task-essential, input-based practice (i.e. +/- explicit conditions) and includes a battery of cognitive measures (sentence span test, PSTM, (L1/L2), the MLAT, symbols/numbers test) to investigate the role of cognitive capacity in the interaction between conditions and variables associated with bilingualism, such as age, aging, proficiency, and strategy use.

In the presentation, I will focus on some of the patterns we have identified across studies: Input-based task essential practice is enough to promote language development; feedback with grammar is more effective for immediate performance, but gains made via interaction with meaningful input and right/wrong feedback may be more stable over time; higher L2 proficiency enhances L3 development; appearance of bilingual advantages depends on the complexity of the tasks performed both in terms of testing and of condition; aptitude is not a fixed trait and can be enhanced with experience in language learning.

These patterns will be discussed in light of what we know about language development under +/- explicit conditions (included in reviews, metanalyses in Norris & Ortega, 2000; Sanz & Morgan-Short, 2005; Spada & Tomita, 2010), the few studies on the role of cognition in moderating the effects of pedagogical conditions (e.g. Mackey, Adams, & Stafford, 2010), and on cognitive advantages of bilingualism, specially Bialystok’ most recent publications.


UIC TiL: Susan Goldman

Tomorrow we’re having UIC’s own Susan Goldman at TiL.  Her talk, “Inquiry Using Multiple Sources of Information,” will take place at the usual time (3pm to 5pm) in the usual place (1750 University Hall–601 South Morgan Street, Chicago IL 60607).  Hope to see you there!

Inquiry Using Multiple Sources of Information
Susan R. Goldman
Departments of Psychology and Curriculum & Instruction (UIC)
Learning Sciences Research Institute

Contemporary society has been dubbed the “knowledge society” largely due to the increased availability and accessibility of information in both professional and personal life contexts. This situation exacerbates the need to understand how people use information from multiple sources to accomplish their goals. Many of those goals involve solving some problem, answering some question, or conducting some type of inquiry. The analysis and synthesis of information from multiple sources is a complex comprehension skill often requires bringing a critical lens to the
sense-making process. The presentation will focus on efforts to unpack the construct “multiple source comprehension” and construct a process model of it as well as empirical investigations of the efforts of young adolescents to use multiple text sources of information to address an inquiry question in the history domain. These efforts involve specifying the content structure of the sources, the relevance of information to the argument structure of the inquiry question.

Childhood Bilingualism

In this month’s issue of Science, an article appeared from two researchers, Ágnes Melinda Kovács and Jacques Mehler, at the Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati–SISSA in Trieste, Italy. They used an eye-tracking study involving speech patterns and toys which found that bilingual infants (12 months) could better distinguish between “two different regularities.” That is, when presented with two different speech patterns of nonce syllables, the bilingual children learned to associate the distinct patterns with the location of the toys. Thus, in the absence of the toys, the bilingual children were statistically more likely than monolingual children to look to the previous location of the toy associated with the pattern they hear. The monolingual children only learned the pattern for one of the locations.

What gives the bilingual infant the advantage? The researchers suggest that a bilingual infant can learn multiple structures simultaneously as a result of the mixed speech they’ve been exposed to. This mixed speech either allows the children to filter out interference possibly due to the development of what the researchers call the “precocious development of control and selection abilities” as documented in other sources.

To see the article and the documented sources:

Bilingualism Benefits, Part 2

Another interesting hit is this question and response in Google Answers. 


The question was what were the benefits–in the lifestyle and job market–of being bilingual.  The responder is a very well-informed–to my knowledge anonymous–person who has posted a wealth of interesting links about everything from the statistics of employment and poverty levels of bilinguals to IQs and creativity.

Bilingualism Benefits, Part 1

If you google ‘bilingualism benefits’ you’ll find a number of interesting hits.  What’s particularly interesting is the way that research in the field is slowly but surely trickling out to the public.

Consider this article from 2004 by the APA about a study that appeared in Psychology and Aging:


(“Bilingualism, Aging, and Cognitive Control: Evidence From the Simon Task,” Ellen Bialystok, Ph.D., and Mythili Viswanathan, M.A., York University; Fergus I. M. Craik, Ph.D., Rotman Research Institute; Raymond Klein, Ph.D., Dalhousie University; Psychology and Aging, Vol. 19, No. 2.)

You can find the same article discussed in layman’s terms in the Washington Post in the same month in the same year.


In the Washington Post, the following quote appeared:

“The team, led by Ellen Bialystok at York University, hypothesized that the ability to hold two languages in the mind at the same time, without allowing words and grammar from one to slip into the other, might account for the greater control needed to perform well on the Simon task. An alternate hypothesis is that bilinguals have superior working memories for storing and processing information.”

The APA’s article, on the other hand, discusses “distractability” and says that bilingualism curbs the “age-related decline in the efficiency of inhibitory processing.”

Hopefully articles like the one in the Washington Post will help inform those who are in a position to affect language policy.  The challenge, then, will be continuing the dialogue.