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10/2017 - 09/2020

Project MoBiLe

The Role of Language and Executive Functions for the Cognitive and Academic Performance in Mono- and Bilingual Children

The project investigates the role of language and executive functions in cognitive and academic development of elementary school children. The focus is on the comparison of monolingual and bilingual children (especially children from immigrant families), who often differ in terms of their language abilities as well as their academic achievement.

Both language abilities and executive functions are excellent predictors for elemtary school children's reasoning and academic performance. However, this relationship is particularly relevant for bilingual children: On the one hand, there is evidence suggesting that bilingual children outperform their monolingual peers in terms of executive functions. On the other hand, bilingual children usually exhibit worse language abilities (e.g., a less comprehensive vocabulary) and worse academic performance. The current project investigates the relationship between language status (monolingual, bilingual), language ability, and executive functions as well as their common and distinct contributions to academic achievement in monolingual and bilingual children. We assume that children with better language abilities (a group in which monolinguals are overrepresented) are able to partially compensate weak executive functions. Moreover, we investigate whether the importance of language abilities for academic achievement is the result of children with better language abilities being able to improve their performance on tasks with high demands of executive functions (e.g. reasoning, academic tasks) by relying on verbal self-instructions. Therefore, we also examine the relationship between language abilities, the use of verbal self-instructions and performance in tasks with high demands of executive control.


Dr. Catherine Gunzenhauser & Prof. Dr. Henrik Saalbach, University of Leipzig, Educational Psychology

Selected Publications

Kray, J., Eber, J., & Karbach, J. (2008). Verbal self-instructions in task switching: A compensatory tool for action-control deficits in childhood and old age? Developmental Science, 11, 223236.

Saalbach, H., Gunzenhauser, C., Kempert, S., & Karbach J. (2016). Der Einfluss von Mehrsprachigkeit auf mathematische Fähigkeiten bei Grundschulkindern mit niedrigem sozioökonomischem Status. Frühe Bildung, 5, 7381.

Titz, C. & Karbach, J. (2014). Working memory and executive functions: Effects of training on academic achievement. Psychological Research, 78, 852868.