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November 26 2012
The language we use affects the decisions we make, according to a new study. Participants made more rational decisions when money-related choices were posed in a foreign language that they had learned in a classroom setting than when they were asked in a native tongue.
To study how language affects reasoning, University of Chicago psychologists looked at a well-known phenomenon: people are more risk-averse when an impersonal decision (such as which vaccine to administer to a population) is presented in terms of a potential gain than when it is framed as a potential loss even when the outcomes are equivalent. In the study, published online in April in Psychological Science, native English speakers who had learned Japanese, native Korean speakers who had learned English and native English speakers studying French in Paris all surrendered to the expected bias when they encountered the question in their native tongue. In their foreign language, however, the bias disappeared.
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