Bilingual children have a better 'working memory' than monolingual children

February 20, 2013

A study conducted at the University of Granada and the University of York in Toronto, Canada, has revealed that bilingual children develop a better working memory -which holds, processes and updates information over short periods of time- than monolingual children. The working memory plays a major role in the execution of a wide range of activities, such as mental calculation (since we have to remember numbers and operate with them) or reading comprehension (given that it requires associating the successive concepts in a text).

The objective of this study -which was published in the last issue of the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology- was examining how multilingualism influences the development of the "working memory" and investigating the association between the working memory and the cognitive superiority of bilingual people found in previous studies.

Executive Functions

The working memory includes the structures and processes associated with the storage and processing of information over short periods of time. It is one of the components of the so-called "executive functions": a set of mechanisms involved in the planning and self-regulation of human behavior. Although the working memory is developed in the first years of life, it can be trained and improved with experience.

According to the principal investigator of this study, Julia Morales Castillo, of the Department of Experimental Psychology of the University of Granada, this study contributes to better understand cognitive development in bilingual and monolingual children. "Other studies have demonstrated that bilingual children are better at planning and cognitive control (i.e. tasks involving ignoring irrelevant information or requiring a dominant response). But, to date, there was no evidence on the influence of bilingualism on the working memory.

The study sample included bilingual children between 5 and 7 years of age (a critical period in the development of the working memory). The researchers found that bilingual children performed better than monolingual children in working memory tasks. Indeed, the more complex the tasks the better their performance. "The results of this study suggest that bilingualism does not only improve the working memory in an isolated way, but they affect the global development of executive functions, especially when they have to interact with each other", Morales Castillo states.

Music Education

According to the researcher, the results of this study "contribute to the growing number of studies on the role of experience in cognitive development". Other studies have demonstrated that children performing activities such as music education have better cognitive capacities. "However, we cannot determine to what extent children perform these activities due to other factors such as talent or personal interest".

"However, the children in our study were bilingual because of family reasons rather than because of an interest in languages.
-end-


University of Granada

Related Working Memory Articles from Brightsurf:

Musical training can improve attention and working memory in children - study
Musically trained children perform better at attention and memory recall and have greater activation in brain regions related to attention control and auditory encoding.

A revised map of where working memory resides in the brain
Findings from genetically diverse mice challenge long-held assumptions about how the brain is able to briefly hold onto important information.

Playing video games as a child can improve working memory years later
UOC research reveals cognitive changes can be found even years after people stop playing

Visual working memory is hierarchically structured
Researchers from HSE University and the University of California San Diego, Igor Utochkin and Timothy Brady, have found new evidence of hierarchical encoding of images in visual working memory.

Couldn't socially distance? Blame your working memory
Whether you decided to engage in social distancing in the early stages of COVID-19 depended on how much information your working memory could hold.

Previously claimed memory boosting font 'Sans Forgetica' does not actually boost memory
It was previously claimed that the font Sans Forgetica could enhance people's memory for information, however researchers from the University of Warwick and the University of Waikato, New Zealand, have found after carrying out numerous experiments that the font does not enhance memory.

They remember: Communities of microbes found to have working memory
Biologists studying communities of bacteria have discovered that these so-called simple organisms feature a robust capacity for memory.

Researchers find key to keep working memory working
Working memory, the ability to hold a thought in mind even through distraction, is the foundation of abstract reasoning and a defining characteristic of the human brain.

Slower growth in working memory linked to teen driving crashes
Research into why adolescent drivers are involved in motor vehicle crashes, the leading cause of injury and death among 16- to 19-year-olds in the United States, has often focused on driving experience and skills.

Are differences in working memory development associated with crashes involving young drivers?
This study of 84 young drivers looked at the association between motor vehicle crashes and differences in the development of working memory, which is critical to awareness of hazards while driving.

Read More: Working Memory News and Working Memory Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.