Auditory Selective Attention Performance in Older and Younger Bilingual Adults

Ninive Gomez, University of Texas at El Paso


Recent research has suggested that bilinguals may have enhanced cognitive abilities resulting from the constant management and maintenance of their two language systems. This cognitive advantage has been evidenced in studies showing that bilinguals outperform monolinguals on tasks of visual selective attention. However, very little is known regarding how bilingualism influences selective attention in the perception of auditory information. Thus, the purpose of this study was to examine the effects of bilingualism on auditory selective attention. A total of 61 participants were recruited to participate and divided into four participant groups: 15 younger monolinguals (between the ages of 18-25), 15 younger bilinguals, 15 older monolinguals (between the ages of 47-62) and 16 older bilinguals. All participants had hearing thresholds < 25 dBHL from 250 Hz to 4000 Hz, bilaterally (ANSI, 2003), and were right-handed according to the Handedness Questionnaire (Veale, 2014). A language profile for each bilingual participant was obtained using The Language Experience and Proficiency Questionnaire (LEAP-Q; Blumenfeld & Kaushanskaya, 2007). All bilingual speakers in this study were early simultaneous bilinguals. Selective auditory attention was measured using The Dichotic Consonant Vowel (D-CV) Test (Auditec, St. Louis, MO). Participants were required to modulate their attention either to the right or the left ear in three attention conditions. In addition, each participant was administered the Simon Task, a non-verbal, visual cognitive test of inhibition. On the Dichotic Listening Task, all groups showed a right-ear advantage across the forced-right condition. The results showed all participants reported more right ear responses than left responses across all attentional conditions. All monolingual participants reported more right-ear responses on the forced-left condition than the bilingual participants. The older bilingual group outperformed the older monolinguals on the forced-left condition, thus demonstrating enhanced executive function control. On the Simon Task, all participants performed better on the congruent condition than the incongruent condition. The younger group performed better on the incongruent condition than the older group of participants. All participants performed faster on the congruent condition than the incongruent condition. In comparison to the older group, the younger group performed faster on the congruent and incongruent conditions. Additionally, the older bilinguals performed significantly slower than the older monolinguals across the congruent and incongruent conditions. In conclusion, a statistically significant difference was found in performance scores between the older bilinguals and monolinguals, as the bilinguals performed better on the forced-left condition. These findings suggest that older bilinguals have a cognitive advantage over older monolingual speakers.

Subject Area

Speech therapy

Recommended Citation

Gomez, Ninive, "Auditory Selective Attention Performance in Older and Younger Bilingual Adults" (2018). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10816545.