I’ve Heard It Both Ways: Bilingualism and Perspective Taking

Carina Rodelo

Abstract


Language can have an enormous impact on shaping the way people perceive the world, from the way common items are described as having different attributes based on the spoken language1 to the way those same objects are interpreted based on different, unique linguistic components2. As such, it becomes relevant to question how deeply the effect of language can be felt in terms of an individual’s cognitive processes. It is with this intention that this research set out to examine the extent to which cognitive differences may exist between monolinguals and bilinguals. Specifically, the purpose of this study was to examine whether or not Spanish-English bilinguals were better at perspective taking than English monolinguals. It was hypothesized that because bilinguals may possess more fluidity in cultural frame switching due to higher levels of Bicultural Identity Integration3, their ability to switch between two distinct perspectives may also be benefitted. In order to test this hypothesis, two participant groups, one comprised of English monolinguals and the other of Spanish-English bilinguals, were asked to read a short scenario in which two distinct perspectives were presented. Participants were also asked to vividly imagine that they were in the scenario, thus putting them into one of the perspectives. After reading the passage, participants were asked to answer multiple choice questions regarding the passage in order to gauge how well participants may have been able to take the opposing perspective. Finally, participants took the Interpersonal Reactivity Index4 with the intention of collecting data about their perspective taking abilities. Data obtained from both groups will be analyzed using SPSS. It is hoped there will be a significant difference between the groups, signaling a possible bilingual advantage in perspective taking.


Keywords


Bilingualism; Spanish-English; Perspective Taking

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