The Effect of Multilingualism on Executive Functioning and Memory in a Sample of College-Educated Older Adults

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Great emphasis has been given to cultural factors affecting cognitive abilities testing in recent years. Specifically, language has been identified as a cultural factor affecting performance on cognitive tests, observed particularly in the domain of Executive Functioning. Research in the area of multilingualism and its role in the working memory system is of particular interest. In light of evidence that language affects working memory, and the identified interaction between the components of working memory and long-term storage systems, we hypothesized that long-term memory would also be implicated. In this study, we explored the differences in performance between college educated older adult multilinguals and monolinguals on a wide range of neuropsychological measures. Monolinguals performed better than multilinguals on a test requiring rapid manipulation of digits in working memory and verbal output (p = .005) and multilinguals performed better than monolinguals on a test of complex visual memory (p = .023). The expense of the additional cognitive strains involved in the processes of the multilingual brain is primarily observed in decreased abilities on a test requiring manipulation and output of verbal information. However, these underlying processes may be contributing to more complex types of memory storage and benefits to the cognitive reserve, while high levels of education provide an equalizing factor in later age.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)

First Advisor

Amano, Stacy

Document Type





Executive functions, Neuropsychology, Multilingualism, Memory, Older people




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