Making Decisions in a Foreign Language



We explore how the use of a foreign tongue affects the nature of judgment, decision and choice. It may be intuitive that the difficulty of using a foreign language would make decisions less systematic. We show the opposite, and argue that decisions in a foreign language are more systematic and normative because the language distances the decision maker. For example, a foreign tongue is less emotionally anchored, making decisions in a foreign language less emotional. As a result, the use of a foreign tongue reduces or eliminates a variety of judgmental biases. We also show that when choice could benefit from an emotional reaction, a foreign tongue reduces such benefit. These results add a new theoretical perspective to considerations of language and thought, and they have important implications for millions of people who live and work while using a language that is not their native tongue.

Boaz Keysar is a Professor in Psychology at University of Chicago. He holds a PhD Degree in Psychology from Princeton University. His current research interests are communication and language use, metaphors, idioms and other figures of speech, thinking, reasoning and problem solving, judgment and decision making.

This research seminar is organised by the Erasmus Centre for Marketing of Innovation (ECMI).
Contact information:
Dr. G. Liberali