The Impact of Bilingualism on Executive Functions in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review Based on the PRISMA Method
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Approximately half of the world's population is bilingual or multilingual. The bilingual advantage theory claims that the constant need to control both known languages, that are always active in the brain, to use the one suitable for each specific context improves cognitive functions and specifically executive functions. However, some authors do not agree on the bilingual effect, given the controversial results of studies on this topic. This systematic review aims to summarize the results of studies on the relationship between bilingualism and executive functions. The review was conducted according to PRISMA-statement through searches in the scientific database PsychINFO, PsycARTICLES, MEDLINE, and PUBMED. Studies included in this review had at least one bilingual and monolingual group, participants aged between 5 and 17 years, and at least one executive function measure. Studies on second language learners, multilingual people, and the clinical population were excluded. Fifty-three studies were included in the systematic review. Evidence supporting the bilingual effect seems to appear when assessing inhibition and cognitive flexibility, but to disappear when working memory is considered. The inconsistent results of the studies do not allow drawing definite conclusions on the bilingual effect. Further studies are needed; they should consider the role of some modulators (e.g., language history and context, methodological differences) on the observed results.
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