The role of selective attention in bilingual creativity
The study presents a systematic investigation of the cognitive mechanisms of selective attention that potentially mediate the effect of bilingualism on creative abilities. The performance of 90 bilingual college students with different proficiency levels in English was compared on a battery of creativity and cognitive measures. Linguistically advanced bilinguals demonstrated greater abilities to produce original and useful ideas and to think beyond standard categories in creative problem-solving. Two mechanisms of selective attention were identified as contributors to the improvement of bilingual creative abilities. The inhibition of irrelevant information seemed to enhance the capacity to produce original and useful ideas. The facilitation of relevant information was likely to boost the ability to activate a multitude of unrelated concepts and work through the concepts already activated. Bilinguals with different levels of linguistic skills were found to utilize these mechanisms differently and thereby to employ different strategies in creative problem-solving.