Ellen Bialystok – Reshaping the Mind: The Benefits of Bilingualism

Ellen Bialystok
York University

Abstract

A growing body of research using both behavioral and neuroimaging data points to a significant effect of bilingualism on cognitive outcomes across the lifespan. The main finding is evidence for the enhancement of executive control at all stages in the lifespan, with the most dramatic results being maintained cognitive performance in elderly adults, and protection against the onset of dementia. A more complex picture emerges when the cognitive advantages of bilingualism are considered together with the costs to linguistic processing.  I will review evidence for both these outcomes and propose a framework for understanding the mechanism that could lead to these positive and negative consequences of bilingualism, including protection against dementia in older age.

Ellen Bialystok is a Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology at York University and Associate Scientist at the Rotman Research Institute of the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care.  She received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1976 studying the relation between children’s conceptual and linguistic development, especially as it applied to spatial cognition.  She then turned to the problem of second language acquisition and investigated the process by which children and adults acquire additional languages. The model she developed in this research showing how interactions between specific linguistic systems and generalized knowledge systems were required to learn a second language formed the basis of her research examining metalinguistic awareness and literacy acquisition in young children. Much of her research in the past 20 years has focused on the effect of bilingualism on children’s language and cognitive development, showing accelerated mastery of specific cognitive processes for bilingual children. More recently, this research has been extended to investigations of adult processing and cognitive aging, showing the continuity of these bilingual advantages into adulthood and the protection against cognitive decline in healthy aging for bilingual older adults. She is the author or editor of 7 books, over 100 scientific papers in journals, and more than 50 chapters in books. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and among her awards are a Killam Research Fellowship, Walter Gordon Research Fellowship, Dean’s Award for Outstanding Research, the Donald T. Stuss Award for Research Excellence at the Baycrest Geriatric Centre, the President’s Research Award of Merit at York University, and the 2010 Killam Prize for the Social Sciences. Her most recent prize is the 2011 Donald O. Hebb award for Distinguished Contribution to Psychology.

Vendredi 26 octobre, 15 hrs, Salle W-5215 de l’UQAM.

 

Institut des sciences cognitives

Fondé en 2003, l'Institut des Sciences Cognitives de l'UQAM vise à favoriser la recherche et le développement de compétences dans le domaine des sciences cognitives, à en partager les connaissances, à faciliter les échanges interdisciplinaires et à animer la communauté locale.

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