The Exposure Advantage: Early Exposure to a Multilingual Environment Promotes Effective Communication.

TitleThe Exposure Advantage: Early Exposure to a Multilingual Environment Promotes Effective Communication.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsFan SP, Liberman Z, Keysar B, Kinzler KD
JournalPsychol Sci
Volume26
Issue7
Pagination1090-7
Date Published2015 Jul
ISSN1467-9280
Abstract

Early language exposure is essential to developing a formal language system, but may not be sufficient for communicating effectively. To understand a speaker's intention, one must take the speaker's perspective. Multilingual exposure may promote effective communication by enhancing perspective taking. We tested children on a task that required perspective taking to interpret a speaker's intended meaning. Monolingual children failed to interpret the speaker's meaning dramatically more often than both bilingual children and children who were exposed to a multilingual environment but were not bilingual themselves. Children who were merely exposed to a second language performed as well as bilingual children, despite having lower executive-function scores. Thus, the communicative advantages demonstrated by the bilinguals may be social in origin, and not due to enhanced executive control. For millennia, multilingual exposure has been the norm. Our study shows that such an environment may facilitate the development of perspective-taking tools that are critical for effective communication.

DOI10.1177/0956797615574699
Alternate JournalPsychol Sci
PubMed ID25956911
PubMed Central IDPMC4791950
Grant ListR01 HD070890 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
R01HD070890 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
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