Examining Bilingual Language Switching Across the Lifespan in Cued and Voluntary Switching Contexts
de Bruin, Angela
Samuel, Arthur G.
Duñabeitia, Jon Andoni
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de Bruin A, Samuel AG, Duñabeitia JA. Examining bilingual language switching across the lifespan in cued and voluntary switching contexts. J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2020;46(8):759-788. doi:10.1037/xhp0000746
How bilinguals control their languages and switch between them may change across the life span. Furthermore, bilingual language control may depend on the demands imposed by the context. Across 2 experiments, we examined how Spanish-Basque children, teenagers, younger, and older adults switch between languages in voluntary and cued picture-naming tasks. In the voluntary task, bilinguals could freely choose a language while the cued task required them to use a prespecified language. In the cued task, youths and older adults showed larger language mixing costs than young adults, suggesting that using 2 languages in response to cues was more effortful. Cued switching costs, especially when the switching sequence was predictable, were also greater for youths and older adults. The voluntary switching task showed limited age effects. Older adults, but not youths, showed larger switching costs than younger adults. A voluntary mixing benefit was found in all ages, implying that voluntarily using 2 languages was less effortful than using one language across the life span. Thus, while youths and older adults experience greater difficulties using multiple languages in response to external cues, they are affected less when they can freely use their languages. This shows that age effects on bilingual language control are context-dependent