Is the bilingual advantage a hoax?

Within the last 5 years, research has suggested individuals speaking two or more languages experience significant cognitive advantages. These benefits include improved learning ability and the delay of degenerative brain conditions like Alzheimer’s. But is there really a bilingual advantage, or have we all been the victims of selective research publishing? As with any research topic, there are almost always studies that both support and refute core claims. The brain benefits of speaking multiple languages is no exception, and a new survey suggests there may be just as much evidence squashing bilingual advantage as there is to champion it. SEE ALSO: The benefits of being bilingual: Why we should learn a second language So why has the public only been made aware of the supporting research? According to researcher Angela de Bruin of Edinburgh University, it comes down to selective publishing, or the ability for medical publications to pick and choose which articles they publish and which ones they don’t. “Publishing only ‘successful’ studies means that we do not have access to many valuable studies that could increase our understanding of the actual effects of bilingualism,” said de Bruin in a press release. “The ‘bilingual advantage’ has received much attention and is now often considered to be common wisdom. Especially because of its societal relevance, it is important to realize that our interpretation of these advantages may be biased by the type of studies published.” Selective publishing doesn’t necessarily mean research journals are trying to dupe the public. Selective publishing is often a form of marketing plan; after all, people enjoy reading about positive advancements in science as opposed to articles that disprove popular theory. The more positive and progressive studies a journal publishes, the more interesting and enjoyable it is, and therefore the more copies it sells or subscriptions it generates. As for the bilingual advantage specifically, it does look like selective publishing have some influence. According to de Bruin, out of 104 bilingual advantage research abstracts investigated, 38 percent described studies that supported a bilingual advantage, 13 percent found mixed results that tended to support the advantage, 32 percent found mixed results that challenged the advantage, and 16 percent failed to find an advantage at all. Out of those studies, 63 percent that supported the bilingual advantage, either partly or completely, were published, but only 36 percent of the studies that mainly or fully failed to support the advantage were published. SEE ALSO: More benefits of bilingualism discovered Of course, the numbers still favor that a bilingual advantage does exist; however, the benefits may not be as cut-and-dry as they appear to be. There were almost as many studies with mixed results as there were those that completed supported a bilingual advantage, suggesting more research is required before the bilingual advantage can be known as medical common knowledge. “All data, not just selected data that supports a particular theory, should be shared, and this is especially true when it comes to data regarding issues that have enormous societal relevance and implications, such as bilingualism,” de Bruin and colleagues concluded in their report.The post Is the bilingual advantage a hoax? appeared first on Voxxi.
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Are there really benefits of bilingualism or have we been fooled? (Shutterstock)

Within the last 5 years, research has suggested individuals speaking two or more languages experience significant cognitive advantages. These benefits include improved learning ability and the delay of degenerative brain conditions like Alzheimer’s.

But is there really a bilingual advantage, or have we all been the victims of selective research publishing?

As with any research topic, there are almost always studies that both support and refute core claims. The brain benefits of speaking multiple languages is no exception, and a new survey suggests there may be just as much evidence squashing bilingual advantage as there is to champion it.

SEE ALSO: The benefits of being bilingual: Why we should learn a second language

So why has the public only been made aware of the supporting research?

According to researcher Angela de Bruin of Edinburgh University, it comes down to selective publishing, or the ability for medical publications to pick and choose which articles they publish and which ones they don’t.

“Publishing only ‘successful’ studies means that we do not have access to many valuable studies that could increase our understanding of the actual effects of bilingualism,” said de Bruin in a press release. “The ‘bilingual advantage’ has received much attention and is now often considered to be common wisdom. Especially because of its societal relevance, it is important to realize that our interpretation of these advantages may be biased by the type of studies published.”

Selective publishing doesn’t necessarily mean research journals are trying to dupe the public. Selective publishing is often a form of marketing plan; after all, people enjoy reading about positive advancements in science as opposed to articles that disprove popular theory. The more positive and progressive studies a journal publishes, the more interesting and enjoyable it is, and therefore the more copies it sells or subscriptions it generates.

As for the bilingual advantage specifically, it does look like selective publishing have some influence. According to de Bruin, out of 104 bilingual advantage research abstracts investigated, 38 percent described studies that supported a bilingual advantage, 13 percent found mixed results that tended to support the advantage, 32 percent found mixed results that challenged the advantage, and 16 percent failed to find an advantage at all.

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One of the benefits of bilingualism is supposed to be the delay of degenerative brain disease. (Shutterstock)

Out of those studies, 63 percent that supported the bilingual advantage, either partly or completely, were published, but only 36 percent of the studies that mainly or fully failed to support the advantage were published.

SEE ALSO: More benefits of bilingualism discovered

Of course, the numbers still favor that a bilingual advantage does exist; however, the benefits may not be as cut-and-dry as they appear to be. There were almost as many studies with mixed results as there were those that completed supported a bilingual advantage, suggesting more research is required before the bilingual advantage can be known as medical common knowledge.

“All data, not just selected data that supports a particular theory, should be shared, and this is especially true when it comes to data regarding issues that have enormous societal relevance and implications, such as bilingualism,” de Bruin and colleagues concluded in their report.

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The post Is the bilingual advantage a hoax? appeared first on Voxxi.