Visuospatial perspective-taking in conversation and the role of bilingual experience

Rachel A. Ryskin, Sarah Brown-Schmidt, Enriqueta Canseco-Gonzalez, Loretta K. Yiu, Elizabeth T. Nguyen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Perspective-taking abilities have been linked to executive function in both children and adults. Bilingual children excel at perspective-taking tasks compared to their monolingual counterparts (e.g., Greenberg, Bellana, & Bialystok, 2013), possibly due to the executive function benefits conferred by the experience of switching between languages. Here we examine the mechanisms of visuo-spatial perspective-taking in adults, and the effects of bilingualism on this process. We report novel results regarding the ability of listeners to appreciate the spatial perspective of another person in conversation: While spatial perspective-taking does pose challenges, listeners rapidly accommodated the speaker's perspective, in time to guide the on-line processing of the speaker's utterances. Moreover, once adopted, spatial perspectives were enduring, resulting in costs when switching to a different perspective, even when that perspective is one's own. In addition to these findings, direct comparison of monolingual and bilingual participants offer no support for the hypothesis that bilingualism improves the ability to appreciate the perspective of another person during language comprehension. In fact, in some cases adult bilinguals have significantly more difficulty with perspective-laden language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-76
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
StatePublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Bilingualism
  • Executive function
  • Eye-tracking
  • Perspective-taking
  • Spatial language

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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