Early bilingualism and theory of mind: Bilinguals’ advantage in dealing with conflicting mental representations
This chapter focuses on the cognitive processes involved in learning two languages simultaneously, and on the possible consequences of bilingualism on socio-cognitive development. It presents a series of studies investigating, on the one hand, whether bilingual exposure leads to an improvement in executive functions in infancy and, on the other hand, whether such executive function advantages would then lead to a better performance in tasks where children have to consider someone else's mental states. It is argued that, when children are prompted to reason about another person's mental representations in a typical theory of mind (ToM) task, they also need to involve efficient executive control abilities to overcome a salient response based on the child's own mental state. Thus, if bilinguals develop better executive control due to having to deal with two languages, they might also be more efficient in dealing with conflicting representations (the child's own belief and the belief of another person) in ToM tasks.
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