2020 Undergraduate Research Showcase


Visual-Spatial Advantage in Problem Solving Among Bilingual Children

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Iryna Babik


The purpose of this study is to establish a positive correlational relationship between bilingualism and problem solving. Previous research indicated that bilingual children are more flexible than their monolingual peers in both processing of syntactic rules and spatial patterns (Ben-Zeev, 1977). Importantly, the same cognitive processes responsible for the contextualization of a bilingual vocabulary operate in a similar fashion with regard to all executive functioning. Essentially, bilingual children have greater reference from which to draw knowledge and find a solution to a particular problem.

Bilingual children are more aware of the structural characteristics in language which can be linked to increased cognitive flexibility and improved pattern recognition via the visual cortex. In terms of Gestalt principles, which refer to compositional heuristics relating to visual perception, bilingualism facilitates a greater awareness of the parts which comprise the whole. Data from Bialystok (2010) determined that this phenomena was not the result of cognitive inhibition, but rather a greater degree of executive control with regard to monitoring and shifting. Moreover, bilinguals’ aptness for structural organization enables them to isolate dimensional matrices and formulate more creative solutions to otherwise commonplace problems given their enhanced ability to ‘differentiate’ (Dijkstra & Van Heuven, 2002).


  1. Ben-Zeev, S. (1977). The influence of bilingualism on cognitive strategy and cognitive development. Child Development, volume, 1009-1018.
  2. Bialystok, E. (2010). Global–local and trail-making tasks by monolingual and bilingual children: Beyond inhibition. Developmental Psychology, 46(1), 93.
  3. Dijkstra, T., & Van Heuven, W. J. (2002). The architecture of the bilingual word recognition system: From identification to decision. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 5(3), 175-197.

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