People Make Better Decisions in Their Non-Native Language

Are you terrible at making decisions? Ponder over it in your second language to get to the solution! A recent study by Boaz Keysar has found that people make unbiased decisions when they are thinking in their second language.  “We know from previous research that because people are naturally loss-averse, they often forgo attractive opportunities,” said psychologist Boaz Keysar, a leading expert on communication. “Our new findings demonstrate that such aversion to losses is much reduced when people make decisions in their non-native language.”
Why does this happen? Researchers state that decisions making abilities are rooted in emotional reactions that are triggered by your native language. A foreign language provides a distancing system that allows people to not think impulsively and instead think more deliberately. This theory was further examined through a coin toss bet among native English speakers whose second language is Spanish.

For this experiment the participants were given a total of $15 in singles and
given the choice to bet $1 at a time on either heads or tails. If they bet and won,
they received $1.50 and lost nothing if a bet was not placed. These instructions
were given in English and then in Spanish. A similar phenomenon was seen. When
the instructions were given in English, the participants only bet about half
the time. But when given in Spanish they bet 74% of the time.

What can we conclude from the findings? The researchers believe that thinking in a second language helps avoid making quick emotional decisions, and allows people’s decision-making process to be more rational. So, if you find yourselves in a situation where you just can’t seem to make a decision, sit down and think about in English, Spanish, French, or whatever your second language may be!

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4 Comments on "People Make Better Decisions in Their Non-Native Language"

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Interesting research. I think this may help explain why the Political News makes me so angry in English, but not in Spanish. It’s like I can’t feel the emotions as strongly with the nonnative words. Note: I’m learning Spanish (and teaching English). Love your software. Can’t wait till it comes out for Spanish Language learning too! 🙂

Interesting research. I think this may help explain why the Political News makes me so angry in English, but not in Spanish. It’s like I can’t feel the emotions as strongly with the nonnative words. Note: I’m learning Spanish (and teaching English). Love your software. Can’t wait till it comes out for Spanish Language learning too! 🙂

This may be true for second language speakers rather than bilinguals due to the fact that second language learners beyond childhood must also acquire the language through more rational processes. So anything coming in through the filter of a second language learned as an adolescent or adult will naturally filter through more rational chanels; it’s part of the training. This would also be true for anyone taught critical thinking or decision making more predominantly in one language over the other, or critical literacy skills like reading comprehension. I believe it has more to do with what skills are taught in… Read more »
This may be true for second language speakers rather than bilinguals due to the fact that second language learners beyond childhood must also acquire the language through more rational processes. So anything coming in through the filter of a second language learned as an adolescent or adult will naturally filter through more rational chanels; it’s part of the training. This would also be true for anyone taught critical thinking or decision making more predominantly in one language over the other, or critical literacy skills like reading comprehension. I believe it has more to do with what skills are taught in… Read more »
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