Learning Third Language Brings Changes in Executive Function: An ERP Study

Young Hye Kwon1, Sung-Eun Lee2,
Author Information & Copyright
1Seoul National University & Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology
2Seoul National University
Corresponding Author :

ⓒ Copyright 2017 Language Education Institute, Seoul National University. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Received: Oct 31, 2017 ; Revised: Dec 17, 2017 ; Accepted: Dec 25, 2017

Published Online: Dec 31, 2017


A number of studies have found that bilinguals differ from monolinguals not only in verbal aspects but also in nonverbal cognitive functions. This study aims to investigate whether learning a third language also affects our executive functions. To demonstrate a direct effect of learning a third language (German) in executive function, 32 English-Korean bilinguals participated in the ERP experiments twice: before and after language training. Based on the Dual Mechanism Control (DMC) model, we used an AX-CPT paradigm to analyze the proactive control processing with P3b and reactive control processing with N2 and P3a components. The results showed an increase in P3a amplitudes after learning the third language which implies enhanced response inhibitory function. Thus, our results suggest not only the second language but also the third language acquisition influences reactive control functions.

Keywords: multilingualism; executive function; AX-CPT; ERP; P3a; P3b; N2