Bilingualism modulates dual mechanisms of cognitive control: Evidence from ERPs

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Recent behavioral findings with the AX-Continous Performance Task (AX-CPT; Morales et al., 2013) show that bilinguals only outperform monolinguals under conditions that require the highest adjustment between monitoring (proactive) and inhibitory (reactive) control, which supports the idea that bilingualism modulates the coordination of different control mechanisms. In an ERP experiment we aimed to further investigate the role that bilingualism plays in the dynamic combination of proactive and reactive control in the AX-CPT. Our results strongly indicate that bilingualism facilitates an effective adjustment between both components of cognitive control. First, we replicated previous behavioral results. Second, ERP components indicated that bilingualism influences the conflict monitoring, response inhibition and error monitoring components of control (as indexed by the N2 and P3a elicited by the probe and the error-related negativity following incorrect responses, respectively). Thus, bilinguals exerted higher reactive control than monolinguals but only when they needed to overcome the competing cue-information. These findings join others in suggesting that a better understanding of the cognitive benefits of bilingualism may require consideration of a multi-component perspective.

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