Bilingualism, the ability to use two languages proficiently, is prevalent across the globe. More than half of the world’s population uses at least two languages or dialects in everyday life, enabling communication and connection across countries and cultures. Research suggests that bilingualism poses many cognitive benefits including increased efficiency of the executive control system. The present study focuses specifically on the benefits of bilingualism for response inhibition – the suppression of actions that are inappropriate in a given context and interfere with goal-driven behavior. Decreased response inhibition has been found in people diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and those who suffer from addiction, but less research regarding enhanced response inhibition has been documented. For the present study, thirty-three undergraduate students served as participants and completed a computerized Stroop task. Accuracy and reaction times were measured, and event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were recorded with an electroencephalograph (EEG). Analyses focused on the N200, N400, and P300 ERP components involved in cognitive control processes including response inhibition, response conflict, error monitoring, and allocation of attention. It was hypothesized that bilinguals would benefit from enhanced ability to inhibit their responses, and would demonstrate greater accuracy and faster reaction times than monolinguals on incongruent Stroop trials. Results replicate the congruency effect, the finding that all participants performed better on the congruent versus the incongruent trials. Differences in the peak waveforms of the ERP components for monolinguals and bilinguals were observed, yet statistical analysis revealed no significant difference between monolinguals and bilinguals. In conclusion, further research is needed to investigate the benefits of bilingualism for response inhibition.

Keywords: bilingualism, response inhibition, cognitive benefits, Stroop task, EEG, ERPs


Herzmann, Grit




Cognitive Psychology | First and Second Language Acquisition


bilingualism, response inhibition, cognitive benefits, Stroop task, EEG, ERPs

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2016 Willow Schram