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Psychol Sci. 2012 Jun;23(6):661-8. doi: 10.1177/0956797611432178. Epub 2012 Apr 18.

The foreign-language effect: thinking in a foreign tongue reduces decision biases.

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University of Chicago-Psychology, 5848 S. University Ave., Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


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.

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