The Nature of Executive Control Processes in Bilingual Children: Cross-Cultural Perspectives

8th February 2021 : 12:00 - 13:00

Category: Seminar Webinar

Research Group: Applied Linguistics

Speaker: Dr Meesha Warmington, University of Sheffield

Location: Teams Online

Convener: Faidra Faitaki

Audience: Public

Join the webinar on the day, with this link.

Behavioural and neuropsychological indicators suggest that executive control is a broad construct, comprising a set of correlated but broadly separable processes involving attention, cognitive flexibility and working memory (including memory updating) (Miyake & Friedman, 2012). These models are typically modelled with English monolingual young adults, whose cognitive skills are at peak efficiency, living in Western countries. But more than half of the world’s population is bi/multilingual, raising the question as to why our approach to understanding the nature of executive processes relies on a population which is not representative of the global norm. The last few decades have witnessed interest in the cognitive profiles of bilinguals, with studies focused on monolingual-bilingual comparisons often demonstrating a bilingual advantage (Warmington et al., 2019; however, see Gathercole et al., 2014). Consequently, there remains little understanding regarding the extent to which cognitive skills are organised and interrelated in bi/multilinguals. In my previous work with bilingual adults I found that attention and inhibition correlated weakly, and that inhibitory processes were moderately related to working memory, while attention correlated weakly with working memory. These patterns imply some commonality and diversity across executive mechanisms. Although this has shed light on the nature and organisation of executive skills in bilinguals this was nevertheless done on a small scale. A vital concern is to replicate these patterns on a larger scale in bilingual children. This talk examines whether executive processes are organised differently in bilinguals and monolinguals.

Bio: Meesha is the Director of the MSc in Psychology and Education at the University of Sheffield and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. As a former international student and, now in her current role as an academic, she supports cultivating outward-facing curricula, specifically, internationalisation. She is a firm believer that world-leading research and teaching cannot take place in absence of the global context. Meesha’s research examines the intersection between cognition (i.e., attention, working memory and cognitive flexibility), language and literacy in multi/monolingual individuals across the lifespan. More recently, she has investigated cognitive-linguistic processing in Hindi/Urdu speaking children and adults living in the UK and India. Her research also focuses on (1) the role of nutrition in cognitive development (2) how best to promote healthy cognitive ageing (3) as well as the cognitive and neurological mechanisms underlying language learning in typical (children and adults) and atypical development (e.g., dyslexia). She is also interested in dyslexia assessment.