Current Studies

A) Bilingualism studies:

Social and cognitive impact of bilingualism in children

In this series of studies, we seek to examine how language background may affect preschoolers’ sensitivity to communicative cues.  Past research found that bilingual children may be better able to use a speaker’s cues (e.g. point, gaze) to understand referential intent.  Our present studies continue to explore how language background, even among bilingual children, e.g., code-switching exposure, may affect children’s representational theory of mind and cognition of other social beings, such as referential intent, selective trust, and social affiliation. We are also interested in examining how resources are allocated when attending to a speaker’s referential cues, to better understand how children with different language exposure allocate resources to monitoring efforts during word learning.

Bilingualism and technology 

The availability and use of technology in reading, literacy and education have increased in recent years (such as e-books, tablets, smart devices, robots, etc.). We are interested in understanding how technology can affect development as well as how to harness it to best affect development through research and design.  One of our project investigates whether enhancing multimedia features in e-books (e.g., voice-reading and pointing-animation) and smart devices are effective in (1) directing bilingual preschoolers’ attention to print in the target language in dual-language books, (2) improving preschoolers’ comprehension and (3) increasing their preferences to read books even in their weaker language. Another project begins to look at how children can best learn from robots, how they attribute trust, and how that can inform better design.

Bilingual effects on executive control in young adults and elderly

These studies investigate the effect of bilingualism on the subdomains of executive control processes including inhibition, shifting and updating. Other researchers have found the benefits associated with bilingualism on inhibition and attentional control in young children. Our present studies examine the performance in various behavioral tasks (i.e. stroop, flanker, task switching) of both young adults and elderly in Singapore. We also explore the relationship between executive control and different aspects of language background such as age-of-acquisition in L2, language proficiency and code-switching to better understand the mechanism of bilingual effects on executive control.

B) Collaborative studies:

Neuro-cognition

Past studies suggest that bilingualism provides a neural and cognitive reserve that protects against the effects of ageing. Furthermore, many elderly cognitive interventions depend on the involvement of staff and caregivers. Such interventions require substantial time commitment on the part of staff and caregivers and not scalable to large groups of patients. Despite many benefits of bilingualism, including the delay of onset of dementia, there have not been any intervention programs based on dual-language engagement in a scalable form that is elderly-friendly. This project works with engineering colleagues to research, design, and implement a scalable, elderly-friendly, dual-language based cognitive intervention program, and make it available to our community day care partner in the form of a multi-modal touch screen technology.

Aging and design 

In collaboration with architect colleagues, we have investigated how the design of social infrastructure (e.g., the availability of space for physical exercise, the distance between house and medical facilities) is related to the pattern of elderly’s activities and their psychological well-being (e.g. depression, satisfaction). The continual research efforts will focus on using a cross-disciplinary and multi-method approach that combines traditional census, survey-based research and ethnography with data gathered through mobile phone applications and social media platforms to (re)define segments of Housing Development Board town residents. This data will then be brought together and analyzed in a ‘big data’ analytical framework.

Pervasive sensing-based social network study

In this line of research, we collaborate with computer scientists to study the physical and cyber social network of students and its impact on various social, psychological and academic outcomes, such as friendship, belongingness, individual well-being, etc. Innovative pervasive-sensing technologies based on smartphone platform are used to collect anonymous information regarding interactions among students and patterns of language and phone use.