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Psychol Sci. 2017 Oct;28(10):1387-1397. doi: 10.1177/0956797617720944. Epub 2017 Aug 14.

Thinking More or Feeling Less? Explaining the Foreign-Language Effect on Moral Judgment.

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1 Department of Psychology, University of Chicago.
2 David Eccles School of Business, University of Utah.
3 Center of Brain and Cognition (CBC), Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
4 Instituci├│ Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avan├žats (ICREA), Barcelona, Spain.


Would you kill one person to save five? People are more willing to accept such utilitarian action when using a foreign language than when using their native language. In six experiments, we investigated why foreign-language use affects moral choice in this way. On the one hand, the difficulty of using a foreign language might slow people down and increase deliberation, amplifying utilitarian considerations of maximizing welfare. On the other hand, use of a foreign language might stunt emotional processing, attenuating considerations of deontological rules, such as the prohibition against killing. Using a process-dissociation technique, we found that foreign-language use decreases deontological responding but does not increase utilitarian responding. This suggests that using a foreign language affects moral choice not through increased deliberation but by blunting emotional reactions associated with the violation of deontological rules.


dual process; foreign language; moral judgment; open data; open materials; process dissociation

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