Dr. Dorit Segal

Discipline: Education and Psychology

Expert in: Bilingualism, ADHD

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Key words: Bilingualism, Attention, Language, Cognition  

What are you currently researching?
My research focuses on the interplay between linguistic and non-linguistic processing within the human mind. In one line of research, I explore the specificity of language control by comparing bilinguals' control over the languages they speak and their cognitive control in non-linguistic tasks. I am currently interested in examining the effect of bilingualism on visual perspective taking. In another line of research, I examine how language and cognitive functions, such as attention and memory, interact in their effect on reading comprehension and text reconstruction. I am currently exploring this interaction by comparing reading comprehension and story retelling in adults with and without attention deficits (ADHD).     

 How did you become involved in your research field?
Before I became a researcher, I worked as a speech and language pathologist at a children's rehabilitation center. Some of my patients were children who had suffered frontal lobe injuries. These children experienced significant cognitive deficits, but their language abilities, according to standardized tests, seemed to be intact. This discrepancy between impaired (nonlinguistic) cognition and intact linguistic abilities inspired me to deepen my understanding of the connections between linguistic and nonlinguistic processing. My PhD research examined adults with ADHD, who presented impaired cognitive control, but intact language abilities. I found a connection between the ability to resolve perceptual and linguistic conflicts. These findings led me to explore the interplay of language and cognition in bilingual speakers who excel in control over the languages they speak. In my postdoctoral research, I compared the ability of bilinguals to switch languages and their ability to switch between nonlinguistic tasks. These studies revealed both similarities and differences between linguistic and nonlinguistic processing.   

What inspired you to become a researcher?
My clinical work as an SLP raises many theoretical questions, which I believe are important to explore. My research on the other hand, shapes my clinical approach. The importance of the theoretical as well as the clinical implications of my research inspires me to continue my exploration and to expand it to other, related, theoretical questions and to other populations.  

Which of your research findings would you like to highlight?
The main finding I would like to highlight is the bidirectional connection that exists between language and cognition. Acknowledging the uniqueness of language, my research convinced me that linguistic abilities, nonlinguistic skills and the interaction between them should be considered when exploring complex processes such as production and comprehension of spoken and written language.

How does your research link to the challenges of today?
In the broadest sense, I think that my research highlights individual differences in linguistic and cognitive processing, and as such, it promotes the approach of personalized education and care. My research on how bilingualism affects linguistic and cognitive processing can help create tailor-made assessment and intervention tools for bilingual speakers. This is crucial, given that more than half of the world’s population is bilingual, and the number of bilingual speakers increases continuously. My research on the interaction of language and cognition in reading comprehension can also help us design a more individualized educational plan for each reader according to their cognitive functioning.

What excites you regarding your research field?
As a researcher and a clinician, I constantly witness the gap that exists between academia and clinical and educational settings. I am excited to be able to narrow this gap by conducting research that has theoretical implications, but that can also be translated into evidence-based practice.