Do bilinguals get less distracted? Results from an auditory-visual Oddball task

Presented at XIV International Symposium of Psycholinguistics (Tarragona, April 10th – 13th, 2019)

Authors Daniel Adrover-Roig *, Raúl López-Penadés, Victor Sanchez-Azanza , Lucía Buil-Legaz , Fabrice Parmentier & Eva Aguilar Mediavilla

Corresponding author

Forty-eight monolingual and 60 bilingual young adults performed an auditory-visual oddball task in which they categorized digits as odd or even while ignoring an irrelevant auditory stimulus presented shortly before each digit. Two blocks of 180 trials (B1, B2) were presented. In each block, 80% of trials included the same irrelevant sound (standard sound) while the remaining 20% of trials used a sound differing from the standard one by 200 Hz (deviant sound). Standard and deviant trials were ordered quasi-randomly, with at least one standard trial separating deviant trials. Bilinguals’ language switching habits were evaluated by means of a validated questionnaire. Deviant trials did not globally hinder accuracy but led to slower RTs, compared to standard and post-deviant trials, and responses were overall faster in B2 compared to B1. Bilinguals were more accurate in B2 than in B1, and showed enhanced accuracy after deviant sounds in B2, compared to monolinguals. Also, bilingual participants showed a tendency to maintain their response speed after deviant sounds during B2, but monolinguals were still slower after distracting sounds. Furthermore, bilingual’s frequency of voluntary language switching was associated to faster RTs to deviant sounds, whereas their frequency of unintended language switching was negatively correlated with accuracy scores. The results are interpreted in light of dual mechanisms of cognitive control and their relations with language experience.