Bilinguals are better than monolinguals in detecting manipulative discourse
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionPLOS ONE. 2021, 16 (9), . 10.1371/journal.pone.0256173
One of the most contentious topics in cognitive science concerns the impact of bilingualism on cognitive functions and neural resources. Research on executive functions has shown that bilinguals often perform better than monolinguals in tasks that require monitoring and inhibiting automatic responses. The robustness of this effect is a matter of an ongoing debate, with both sides approaching bilingual cognition mainly through measuring abilities that fall outside the core domain of language processing. However, the mental juggling that bilinguals perform daily involves language. This study takes a novel path to bilingual cognition by comparing the performance of monolinguals and bilinguals in a timed task that features a special category of stimulus, which has the peculiar ability to manipulate the cognitive parser into treating it as well-formed while it is not: grammatical illusions. The results reveal that bilinguals outperform monolinguals in detecting illusions, but they are also slower across the board in judging the stimuli, illusory or not. We capture this trade-off by proposing the Plurilingual Adaptive Trade-off Hypothesis (PATH), according to which the adaptation of bilinguals’ cognitive abilities may (i) decrease fallibility to illusions by means of recruiting sharpened top-down control processes, but (ii) this is part of a larger bundle of effects, not all of which are necessarily advantageous.