Donnelly, C. (2024). The Role of Classification of Bilingualism in Influencing Apparent Performance on Cognitive Control Tasks. Villanova Undergraduate Research Fellows (VURF) grant. Villanova Center for Research and Fellowship

  • Being bilingual can confer an advantage in cognition upon someone compared to their monolingual peers, but researchers often prioritize certain aspects of bilingualism more than others when deciding who is considered bilingual and who is considered monolingual. So, major theories regarding the effects of bilingualism have different baselines, making validating and replicating claims more difficult. This study investigates whether performance on cognitive control tasks differs between monolinguals and bilinguals but, more importantly, asks how the choice of participant classification (categorical versus continuous) influences the results. Twenty people with bilingual experience and twenty people with no or limited experience will be recruited. They will complete a detailed language history questionnaire, the LHQ-3, and then will be classified both categorically (as monolingual or bilingual) and continuously. Categorical classification will be derived from LHQ-3 scores in language dominance and proficiency with a cutoff for what is considered monolingual or bilingual, while continuous classification will be determined by LHQ-3 language proficiency and dominance scores with participants placed on a continuum. Participants will then perform two tasks measuring cognitive control: the AX-CPT = and the n-back task with lures. It is expected that categorical grouping will lead to more disparities between the two groups because the choice of categorization boundary adds an additional researcher degree of freedom and introduces noise to the data. A continuous approach may attenuate any apparent differences between the groups because results depend on the distribution of participants along the bilingualism index. This study will shed light on the importance of researcher choices in reported findings from human subjects data. Specifically, I will investigate how classifying bilingualism influences apparent performance on cognitive control tasks to contribute to the debate on the bilingual advantage hypothesis.
  • Caselli, J. (2023). Does Perception Match Performance? Neurophysiological Correlates of Cognitive Control. Villanova Undergraduate Research Fellows (VURF) grant. Villanova Center for Research and Fellowship

    • Previous research shows that weaker performance on reactive control tasks correlates to greater adaptation to change (Smalle et al., 2022). The aim of this research is to compare the results of AX-CPT and n-back behavioral tasks with electrophysiological data obtained via EEG in an “Oddball” paradigm, measuring activity resulting from detection of a change in stimulus. Thirty monolingual English speakers will complete the series of tasks and undergo EEG to record event-related potential (ERP) data. Data analysis will include means and standard deviations of task performance within the sample and t-tests and regression analysis between behavioral and ERP variables. If weaker performance also correlates to more attenuated ERPs, this would provide evidence that one does not need to detect a change to participate in it. If they do not correlate, these results may shed light on task validity for behavioral measures of control.

    Berry, G.M. & Toscano, J.C. (2022-2024). Experiential and neurocognitive mechanisms of language adaptation. Research Catalyst Grant ($35k). Villanova Institute for Research and Scholarship.

    • Language is highly variable and prone to structural change. When small-scale patterns start to take shape, as is often the case with incipient sound change, humans face the monumental tasks of distinguishing meaningful shifts from noise and then adapting to those changes in the speech around them. Though adaptation is guided by both language experience and cognitive processing ability, researchers know little about how the two interact. The proposed collaboration combines the expertise of project leads from the Departments of Spanish and Psychological & Brain Sciences to address this theoretical gap using a novel paradigm that simulates sound change in a controlled, laboratory setting. Specifically, we will measure the degree to which English monolinguals and English-Spanish bilinguals integrate sound changes from their input into their own speech. We will then compare adaptation ability to cognitive processing performance and to neurophysiological responses, measured using electroencephalography (EEG), that reflect sound change detection. Experimental data will be analyzed alongside demographic information and participants’ language histories to explore effects of change detection, cognitive processing, and language experience on adaptation. Results will inform theories of psycholinguistics and laboratory phonology by identifying factors that promote language and category learning. Furthermore, findings will be directly relevant to societal issues by providing vital predictions regarding how demographic changes predicted to occur in large urban centers in the US over the next three decades (namely, increased exposure to languages other than English at home and increased domestic migration) may affect linguistic structures and patterns of use.