Pensez-vous Francais? Thinking in a foreign language ‘leads to more rational decision making’
Got a difficult decision to make? Why not mull it over auf deutsch?
A new study suggested that people are prone to make more sound, less risky decisions if they are thinking in a language other than their native tongue.
The series of experiments, conducted by Boaz Keysar of the University of Chicago, led the scientists to believe that ‘using a foreign language reduces decision-making bias,’ Dr Keysar’s team wrote.
Their findings, published in an April 18 Psychological Science study, say that human reasoning is shaped by both systematic, rational ideas, and another that’s emotionally-charged and rapid.
Dr Keysar wrote: ‘A foreign language provides a distancing mechanism that moves people from the immediate intuitive system to a more deliberate mode of thinking.’
Joined by graduate students Sayuri Hayakawa and Sun Gyu An, the team tested native English speakers at the University of Chicago who had learned Japanese as a second language.
The 121 students were given a hypothetical choice – first in English – whether they would save a set number of people, or take the risk of saving more people with a higher rate of failure.
Dr Keysar’s team asked if the students would chose to develop a medicine that would 100 per cent save 200,000 out of 600,000 people, or a medicine that had a 33.3 per cent chance of saving all 600,000 people with a 66.6 per cent chance of saving none at all.