Findings showed that adults who learn a second language as a young child (early bilinguals) are more quick to shift attention and detect visual changes than adults who learned a second language later in life (late bilinguals).
Dr. Dean D'Souza led the research. There were 127 adult participants who took part in two separate experiments. In the first experiment, which involved watching pictures on a screen where one picture gradually changed and the other remained the same, early bilinguals noticed these changes much faster than late bilinguals.
Results of the second experiment showed that early bilinguals were better at controlling their attention, i.e., they were quicker at withdrawing attention from one picture and shifting their focus to another.
Prior research done by Dr. D'Souza and colleagues found that infants raised in bilingual homes shift their visual attention faster and more frequently in order to adapt to their more varied and unpredictable language environment. This new study suggests that these adaptations continue into adulthood.
Dr. D'Souza says "This study is an exciting extension of our previous research, which suggested that infants raised in bilingual homes adapt to their more complex language environments by switching attention faster and more frequently."
He explains that his adaptation may help them take advantage of multiple visual information sources, like mouth movements, facial expressions, and subtle gestures, ultimately helping them learn multiple languages.