decisions

How Speaking Foreign Languages Helps to Make Better Decisions

decisions

Two days ago I wrote an article on how bilinguals adapt to the situation and show different behavior as well as ways to speak depending on which of their respective languages they use at a specific moment.

Today, I will continue exploring this topic of how our brain and our personality are related and influenced. This article will show how you how your ability to speak a foreign language can help you make better decisions.

You might have discovered the phenomenon to feel less emotional when you speak in your foreign language. I’m speaking of situations when you use swear words or slang. In our mother tongue we usually think twice before using such language and whether to use it at all. In our second (or third, fourth..) language however, those words words usually cross our lips easily. Less emotionality also applies to positive sentences and situation, for instance one might say ‘I love you’ sooner than in their native language.

Here, like in our last article, the time in life when you learnt your foreign language(s) plays an important role. The earlier in life one has learnt a new language the more similar or even identical social standards apply compared with the speaker’s native language.

Researchers asked themselves the other question around. How are our logical thinking and analysis influenced by language. Would bilinguals make better decisions, so to say less emotional and more analytical ones? You can read the abstract of their paper on Psychologial Science.

The study found that the bilingual probands were indeed very much influenced by so called framing effects. They didn’t choose the probabilistic answer in the experiments, they prefered the sure outcome over the probabilistic one.

However, test persons less attached to emotional factors always chose the probabilistic answer over the sure one as the didn’t apply emotional concepts but analysis and logical thinking.

It is interesting that less proficient language doesn’t diminish a person’s cognitive resources for deliberative reasoning.

To summarize: speaking foreign languages can lead to making better, more logical decisions which is especially interesting for workers and managers in the global economy.

Via Scientific American | Picture by imelenchon

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  • I have noticed this very phenomenon many times! I’m surrounded by English and use it effectively as my main language, it’s all I speak with my partner and friends in face-to-face interactions. One of my friends once got me to teach her a word which is so rude in German that I cannot even think it without blushing. While having a bit of a reputation for cheerily using colourful language in my spoken English, I almost faint with embarrassment every time she uses said German swearword, much to the amusement of everyone who knows me. I always assumed this is related to being taught the use of the language by authority persons when I was small, and picking up any other languages free from any reprimands. My parents wouldn’t know if I used a swearword in English!