Minna Lehtonen is Professor at the Department of Psychology and Speech Language Pathology at University of Turku, Finland, and Professor II at the Center for Multilingualism in Society across the Lifespan at University of Oslo, Norway. Previously, she has worked at Åbo Akademi University and University of Helsinki in Finland, as well as University of Maryland in the USA. She has authored a number of articles on psycho- and neurolinguistics of bilingualism. She has published on topics related to advantages and costs of bilingualism, cognitive control in language processing and switching, and the neurocognitive basis of morphological processing. She is also working on projects developing and studying digital applications for language learning of immigrants.
Multilingualism and cognition
Command of two or more languages can have many communicative benefits for an individual, but the question of whether bilingualism can also have beneficial effects on cognition and the brain has been debated in recent years.
The management of two languages in one mind is assumed to engage so-called domain-general executive functions that are important in controlling and regulating our behaviour. This putative cognitive advantage in bilinguals has thus been assumed to be due to the massive training of executive functions that bilinguals have accumulated due to their long experience in suppressing interference from the competing language or in frequent language switching.
In this talk, I will review the current evidence from behavioural tasks and brain-level studies and present ways, both methodological and theory-driven, in which the field could move forward.