Working memory has been linked to many cognitive advantages and is essential for successful performance on many cognitive tasks. Research has identified bilingual advantages over monolinguals, including working memory. However, differences in working memory capacity between bilinguals’ first and second languages have been scarcely studied. Task performance in bilinguals second-language was predicted to carry a heavier cognitive load and, therefore, negatively influence working memory capacity. As a result, it was predicted that first language working memory capacity would be greater than second language working memory capacity. To measure bilinguals’ working memory capacity in both their first and second languages, operation span tasks and reading span tasks were administered. A self-report questionnaire was also used to gather information regarding second language acquisition. Results were consistent with the hypothesis and revealed working memory capacity to be greater in bilinguals’ first language than in their second language. However, consistent use of a bilingual’s second language shifted working memory capacity to be greatest in that language. Consequently, greater working memory was not necessarily dependent on language status but rather on the frequency of language use.


Abraham, Ashley



Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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