About

I’m currently a UC Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Psychology program at the University of California, Riverside working with Dr. Judith Kroll (UCR) and Dr. Deborah Burke (Pomona College) on a project investigating lexical retrieval in bilingual older adults.

My research focuses on language changes throughout the life span, particularly in bilingualism and aging. I’m particularly interested in how both internal (i.e., developmental) and external (i.e., environmental) factors shape language use, how cognitive processes interact with language processes, and how the brain changes in response to these influences.

My work on bilingualism centers around the idea of cross-linguistic influence, meaning how languages interact with each other in the mind and brain to produce novel language use patterns. I believe the language user must be seen as a whole, considering language experience and use in all languages, in order to understand processes such as language acquisition and attrition, and in order to interpret language use patterns that differ for bilinguals and monolinguals. My current focus is on changes to native language processing as a result of second language acquisition in childhood and adulthood. I have recently completed a study investigating how the level of proficiency in the second language impacts response speed during a word retrieval task in the first language. I also looked at the relationship between degree of bilingualism and two cognitive skills: inhibitory control and mental set-shifting. Results were presented at the Mental Lexicon conference in September 2014, at the University of Illinois-Chicago Bilingualism Forum in October 2014, the Bilingualism and Executive Functions workshop in May 2015, the International Symposium on Bilingualism in May 2015, and International Workshop on Language Production in July 2016.

My research on aging investigates how cognitive and language processes interact in normal aging. It is well documented that cognitive skills decline in older age and some language skills also decline. At the present time, it is unknown to what degree these declines are interdependent or independent. I analyzed a large sample of data from the Language in the Aging Brain laboratory in Boston to investigate what types of cognitive skills play a role in word retrieval skills in older adults. This paper is currently under journal review.

My doctoral dissertation investigated how closely the two languages’ syntactic systems overlap in bilinguals. I used electrophysiology (ERPs) to index processing patterns of a syntactic structure that exists in only the second language in order to see whether these bilinguals can in fact utilize this structure in their first language. The findings indicate that Spanish-English bilinguals are able to make sense of ungrammatical Spanish sentences whose translations in English are grammatical, which strongly suggests that they are able to utilize their knowledge of English grammar even when processing sentences in Spanish. Results for this project have been presented at the Neurobiology of Language conference in October 2015, the Cognitive Neuroscience Society annual meeting in March 2016, the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) Convention and the Psychonomic Society annual meeting in November 2016, the Linguistic Society of America annual meeting in January 2017, and the International Symposium on Bilingualism in June 2017.

Courses I have taught in the Linguistics and Communication Disorders program at Queens College are Multilingualism in the U.S. and Introduction to Psycholinguistics. I also provide private tutoring to international students and scholars on accent reduction and academic writing in English.

Curriculum Vitae: Eve Higby CV July2017

Photo credit: Jungna Kim

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