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I hear ce que you're saying: Modality modulates the impact of code-switching on inhibitory control

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Poster B40 in Poster Session B, Tuesday, October 24, 3:30 - 5:15 pm CEST, Espace Vieux-Port
This poster is part of the Sandbox Series.

Leah Gosselin1, Laura Sabourin1; 1University of Ottawa

It is now generally acknowledged that certain dimensions of the bilingual experience may disproportionately explain inconsistent executive functioning advantages among bi-/multilinguals. Code-switching is one such promising dimension, as reading or hearing code-switches is usually accompanied by indices of effortful processing (e.g., Gosselin & Sabourin, 2021). This result is seen as paradoxical, since code-switching is widespread and code-switchers appear to mix their languages effortlessly. One possibility is that producing code-switches is opportunistic (e.g., based on word retrieval ease), but that the underlying processing of code-switches requires (and potentially trains) executive control processes (Gollan & Ferreira, 2009). The present study constitutes a novel attempt to disentangle the effects of modality (producing vs. hearing/processing) when it comes to the impact of code-switching on executive functioning. Fifteen pairs of French-English bilinguals (n=30, age: M=35.3 years, range=18-61 years; 22 women, 8 men) from the same in-group (e.g., couples, siblings, parent/child) came to the lab together and completed speech elicitation activities while their natural interactions were recorded. The final unstructured task (i.e., free discussion; M=19.2 minutes) was transcribed. Individual utterances (M=208 utterances per subject) were coded as a) unilingual French; b) unilingual English; c) inter-sentential switches or; d) intra-sentential switches. These were used to compute a production index for each participant (PCS: 'produced code-switching'; i.e., the proportion of inter-/intra-sentential switches produced by the participant themselves) and a processing index (HCS: 'heard code-switching'; i.e., the proportion of inter-/intra-sentential switches produced by the participant's conversational partner). These indices were inputed as predictors in mixed models, wherein the response variable was the participants' subsequent performance on an individual Flanker task. In the trial-by-trial analyses, condition (neutral vs. incongruent) interacted with both PCS (β=-1.15, t=-3.67***) and HCS (β=1.42, t=4.04***). To examine these interactions in more detail, the participants were divided into infrequent and frequent code-switchers (according to the middle value of the switching predictors). This split revealed that the contrast between neutral and incongruent Flanker trials was not modulated by PCS and HCS among infrequent switchers (ts<.75). However, for frequent code-switchers, increased PCS resulted in less distance between neutral and incongruent trials (β=-3.63, t=-4.54***); this same effect was found for HCS, but with a much steeper slope (β=-12.61; t=-9.66***). Conditions were then aggregated to compute by-subject Flanker inhibition effects (M neutral RT – M incongruent RT). Aggregated analyses among all participants yielded no relationship between produced switches and the inhibition effect (β=-.43, t=-1.19). By contrast, a reduction in the inhibition effect was observed as participants heard more switches (β=.78, t=2.02*), with a steeper effect for inter- compared to intra-sentential switches (β=2.37, t=2.28*). The results from the present study suggest that producing and hearing code-switches do not entail the same cognitive control mechanisms. In particular, frequently processing (but not producing) switches is linked to better inhibitory control. Nonetheless, producing switches does not seem to hinder executive functioning; among frequent code-switchers, producing more switches is related to faster RTs. Our findings show that modality must be considered when researchers operationalize code-switching habits within the context of bilingual executive functioning.

Topic Areas: Multilingualism, Language Production

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