Programma en keynotes
De Anéla/VIOT Juniorendag zal aanvangen met een plenaire lezing, gevolgd door een reeks parallelsessies waarin studenten, net afgestudeerden en promovendi hun onderzoek presenteren. Tijdens de lunch is er een postersessie. Na de lunch worden de parallelsessies hervat en vervolgens wordt de dag afgesloten met een tweede plenaire lezing. Aansluitend vindt er een borrel plaats waarop de Anéla-VIOT scriptieprijs en de prijs voor de beste poster zullen worden uitgereikt.
NB: de abstracts zullen alleen digitaal beschikbaar zijn.
De plenaire lezingen zullen worden gehouden door:
De Juniorendag vindt plaats in Janskerkhof 2-3, te Utrecht.
Financial literacy and the comprehension of financial information
Financial documents are difficult to comprehend for many readers. Especially readers with a lower level of financial literacy are expected to experience problems with these documents. In this lecture I will present the results of four studies, financed by NWO and Netspar, on the comprehension of financial communication in two domains: pensions and debt collection. In both domains interventions have been made in order to improve information quality and thus comprehension. Did these interventions indeed improve the finding and comprehending of relevant information? And how did respondents with different levels of financial literacy perform using these revisions?
One effect that often occurs, although not intentionally, is the so-called Matthew effect (Rigney, 2010). In the domain of education this effect was demonstrated in a project focused at the improvement of reading proficiency by strengthening vocabulary of students. The result of the intervention was that the gap between readers with a higher level and a lower level of reading ability was widened and not narrowed, as was the goal of the project. Students with a substantial vocabulary were able to acquire new words more easily than students with a lower level of vocabulary. In line with this effect one could argue that interventions to improve documents will help good readers to perform better, while poor readers still experience problems. I will demonstrate how the revisions succeeded in narrowing the gap between different levels of financial literacy.
In the domain of pensions the communication is highly regulated in terms of mandated discourse. Pension organizations are obliged to produce specific documents on their pensions according to a set of standards that has nationally been accepted. One of the main goals of mandated discourse is to help clients in processing information and make sound decisions on their financial future. In the academic field, however, skepticism is expressed on the effectiveness of such obligations. I will elaborate on this skepticism and analyze some of the linguistic characteristics of the obligations.
Language learning never gets old: how bilingualism sculpts aging
The world is aging. Especially Western countries have seen a steep increase in the proportion of seniors because of better life expectancies and dropping fertility rates (Alho, 2008). In Europe alone, more than 20% of citizens will be over the age of 65 by 2025 (“Policy Ageing”, 2016). As such, age-associated illnesses like dementia are quickly becoming major diseases in Europe, as are loneliness and age-associated depression (Staehelin, 2005). The European Commission now speaks of aging as “one of the greatest social and economic challenges of the 21st century”, and has put initiatives aimed at promoting healthy aging high on its research agenda.
Research has singled out factors that help promote healthy aging: (former) occupational and socio-economic status, and stimulating leisure activities like reading are ‘lifetime experiences’ that contribute to cognitive reserve: the resistance of cognitive systems to damage (Costa & Sebastián-Gallés, 2014). Amidst these activities, one lifetime experience is especially “sustained, intense, and all-encompassing” (Bialystok, 2016, p.6): bilingualism. People who speak more than one language have been found to build up cognitive reserve, even delaying the onset of degenerate diseases like Alzheimer’s (Alladi et al., 2013). If found on a large scale, that would make bilingualism a most powerful tool against dementia (Bak, 2016).
But although bilingualism may be the most intense of all activities attenuating age-related cognitive decline, it is also the most variable: no two bilinguals are the same in how they learned their languages, or how intensely they now use them. Moreover, it has proven almost impossible to tease apart effects due to bilingualism and the “forest of confounding variables” (Bak, 2016). This has left bilingualism research at an impasse, with ever more studies questioning the cognitive effect brought about by bilingualism (cf. Paap & Sawi, 2014).
In this keynote address, I will – using my own work and that of others – detail the role of bilingualism as a factor modulating the aging process. I will show that the mixed effects that characterize the field are mostly due to bilingualism having been regarded as a binary knowledge variable (you either are bilingual or you are not) rather than treating it as a continuous variable and relating contexts in and degrees to which languages are used to cognitive aging. In addition, the social aspect of bilingualism ( how do speakers perceive their bilingual self) are mostly not considered but are likely crucial in determining the magnitude of the effect found. Likewise, what has not been examined is whether bilinguals are happier in old age, including less prone to age-associated depression. Apart from reviewing the current state-of-the-art of the field in this way, this keynote will also identify future research avenues for cognitive aging and bilingualism research, including introducing a foreign language at an older age to promote healthy aging.