Researchers at the University of Chicago have found that, when confronted with a problem in a foreign language, people tend to be more analytical and less emotional. Therefore, their choices seem less influenced by decision-making biases. This fact, the authors of the study believe, should be taken into account when making important financial decisions.
The scientists tested a number of American and Korean students who had learn a second language (Japanese and Spanish in the case of Americans and English in the case of Koreans). They were presented a problem in their native language and then in the foreign one. Their choices were different in both cases, showing that ‘a foreign language provides greater cognitive and emotional distance than a native tongue does,’ according to the study.
‘Four experiments show that the framing effect disappears when choices are presented in a foreign tongue,’ they write in the paper. ‘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.’
It remains to be seen how this will work in practice.
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Keysar, B., Hayakawa, S., & An, S. (2012). The Foreign-Language Effect: Thinking in a Foreign Tongue Reduces Decision Biases Psychological Science DOI: 10.1177/0956797611432178