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  1. #1
    Senior Member TreeBob's Avatar
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    Jun 2012
    8w7 sx/sp

    Default The Foreign-Language Effect: Thinking in a Foreign Tongue Reduces Decision Biases

    So I don't know if this is the best sub-forum or not but here goes...
    Would you make the same decisions in a foreign language as you would in your native tongue? It may be intuitive that people
    would make the same choices regardless of the language they are using, or that the difficulty of using a foreign language
    would make decisions less systematic. We discovered, however, that the opposite is true: Using a foreign language reduces
    decision-making biases. Four experiments show that the framing effect disappears when choices are presented in a foreign
    tongue. Whereas people were risk averse for gains and risk seeking for losses when choices were presented in their native
    tongue, they were not influenced by this framing manipulation in a foreign language. Two additional experiments show that
    using a foreign language reduces loss aversion, increasing the acceptance of both hypothetical and real bets with positive
    expected value. We propose that these effects arise because a foreign language provides greater cognitive and emotional
    distance than a native tongue does.
    So feel free to read the study as it is interesting, but you can get the main idea from the abstract. While reading about this study I couldn't help but think of all the non English people who take English only personality tests online. I know that some major typology tests can be taken in other languages but they tend to cost money and therefore most people who "discover their type" do so via the free online tests. Many of these tests are dubious to begin with, but if what this study says is true then second language testers may score differently then they would in their own language. You may think this is obvious but in this study they made sure that the participants showed a good proficiency in their second language before letting them participate. This is key, because to them they are bilingual enough that the language and meaning is not a barrier.

    I don't know whether it is a good thing or a bad thing to do the test with "greater cognitive and emotional distance". One could say that because a native English speaker is doing the test in his own language that we have emotional bias and therefore we may score an incorrect type. I can flip that argument and say that a second language person lacking the emotional aspect may get an incorrect type because they lack any emotion. It's all beyond me really, but I find it interesting non the less.

    What do you all think?

    Don't like my modera... Oh wait, wrong forum. Carry on.

    ESTP, 8w7 sx/sp

  2. #2
    Liberator Coriolis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    5w6 sp/sx


    I can see the extra effort involved in communicating in a foreign language serving to slow down the decision making process, making it more deliberate and preventing kneejerk reactions. I also encourages consideration of an alternative perspective. Language reflects culture, and using a foreign language gives one a glimpse of the native speaker's perspective.

    That being said, answering the questions on a personality test is not so much making decisions as making observations: do I do this more, or that? There is thus limited risk involved, unless one suspects the test is being used, say, for employment purposes and a job or promotion hangs on the outcome. Unless one is fairly proficient with the other language, I see some possibility of misinterpreting the questions due to unfamiliar words, connotations, or even situations.
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  3. #3


    Thinking in a foreign tongue strips many concepts of the stigmas they may harbor in your native tongue. It's not just a linguistic thing, but a cultural thing.

    I think the article in the OP explains why it can actually be a fun means of stress release to learn another language, even in the struggles of trying to comprehend it. It kind of feels like using cheat codes.

  4. #4
    Its time. Cassandra's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008


    Id imagine that also depends on the mastery of said foreign language, though. The languages I speak fluently, like native tongue fluently, I dream and think in. Hell, my English is currently more available to me than my maternal tongue because I've been using it more these last few years.

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