Date of Award

Fall 2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Torres, Lucas

Second Advisor

De St. Aubin, Ed

Third Advisor

Hoelzle, James

Abstract

The current study was an exploratory investigation of the cultural constructs of biculturalism and bilingualism as predictors of executive function among a community-based sample of 25 older adult Latinos living in the U.S. The potential moderating effects of education and bicultural identity integration were also examined. Using regression analyses, biculturalism and bilingualism were examined independently as predictors of performance on three separate tasks of executive function: trail making tests, a phonemic fluency task, and a clock drawing task. Bilingualism was not found to predict performance on any of the executive functioning tasks. In the overall sample, biculturalism also was not found to predict performance on tasks of executive function. Additional analyses; however, revealed that among women in the sample, biculturalism was predictive of better performance on a phonemic fluency task, specifically among those who were high in cultural harmony, an aspect of bicultural identity integration. Also noteworthy was the finding that biculturalism was actually related to worse phonemic fluency performance among non U.S. educated individuals, contrary to stated hypotheses. Findings are discussed within the framework of cognitive reserve theory. This is the first study to examine biculturalism as a potential predictor of executive functioning and the first to suggest that biculturalism may contribute to cognitive reserve. The study highlights the complexities of examining cultural variables in cognition research, as well as the need for future work in this area.

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