INFLUENCE OF EARLY ENVIRONMENTAL VARIATION ON MEMORY DEVELOPMENT: EXAMINING BILINGUALISM DURING INFANCY
Brito, Natalie Hiromi
Successful memory performance is contingent on a balance between remembering the specific features of an event and applying that knowledge across different cues and contexts. Memory flexibility is necessary for declarative memory and learning and is measured by generalization between perceptually dissimilar objects. Memory performance is initially highly context-specific, but becomes increasingly flexible across development. The ability to generalize is crucial to learning because it allows past experience to be applied to a range of future situations that are unlikely to be the same as initial learning episode.A great deal of plasticity in developing brain systems is dependent on the linguistic input infants receive. Bilingual children show early sensitivity to the differences between their languages and this sensitivity has resulted in advantages in tasks that necessitate cognitive flexibility. Only a few studies have examined cognitive development and bilingualism during infancy, as most of the research has focused on the preschool or adult populations, and there have not been any studies exploring the relationship between memory generalization and bilingualism. This dissertation examines memory generalization at 6-, 18-, and 24-months of age using the well-established deferred imitation paradigm. Results from the first chapter demonstrate a clear bilingual advantage in memory generalization at 18-months of age. The results from the second chapter represent the youngest age group to show a non-linguistic cognitive advantage of bilingualism, with bilingual, but not monolingual, 6-month-olds generalizing across two perceptual features, shape and color. The third chapter examines what language characteristics influence this bilingual advantage in memory generalization, and results indicate that the number of languages an infant is exposed to may be more influential for memory generalization than the rhythms of the specific languages.Studying bilingualism early in development could lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in these bilingual advantages. These findings demonstrate early emerging differences in memory generalization in bilingual infants, and have important implications for our understanding of how early environmental variations shape the trajectory of memory development.
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Examining factors associated with visuospatial working memory development from infancy through the preschool years Zimmermann, Laura (Georgetown University, 2016)In early childhood, the development of executive functioning (EF) takes place. This complex system comprised of working memory, inhibitory control, and shifting is crucial for successful cognitive and socio-emotional ...