Thinking in a foreign language can influence decision-making and moral dilemmas

Thinking in a foreign language can improve decision-making. This is described in David Robson’s book “The Expectation Effect: How Your Mindset Can Change Your Life,” which is cited by The Guardian.

The author of the book points out that “switching” between languages can affect the quality of people’s memories or the assessment of moral dilemmas. By speaking a second language, people can even become more rational, more open-minded, and better prepared to deal with uncertainty.

“This phenomenon is known as the “foreign language effect” and the benefits may be an inspiration for anyone who would like to enrich their mind with the words of another tongue,” the publication writes.

This effect does not depend on the specifics of the language, but is instead related to the general experience of transitioning from the first to the second language.

A number of experiments have shown that speaking a foreign language can influence cognitive biases. For example, it can reduce the framing effect, i.e. the human tendency to be influenced by certain wording of information, and the sunk cost effect, i.e. our reluctance to quit a bad business. The foreign language effect can also prevent the creation of false memories.

“People need to realise that if they choose to use one language over the other, that will have a systematic effect on the process and outcome of what they do,” says Prof Boaz Keysar from the University of Chicago.

Although there is still a lot of research to be done on this effect, in certain situations it can be a useful tool that allows people to be a little more objective and flexible in their thinking.