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Good Housekeeping
May 05, 2012

Thinking in a Foreign Language May Make You More Analytical

A study shows that speaking in a foreign language may make you process things more analytically and be inclined to to take more risks.

How many languages do you know? According to a study published in the journal Psychological Science, knowing more than one language may affect the way we make decisions. Apparently, thinking in a foreign language makes us less risk-averse than usual. 

Researchers revived the famous David Kahneman experiment by asking 121 volunteers who had learned Japanese whether they would opt to save a limited few from certain death or choose to risk using a cure that may save more lives. When the question was phrased in English, almost 80 percent chose the safer option. When the question was framed in a way that emphasized losing lives rather than saving them, the percentage dropped to 47. When the question was asked in Japanese, participants chose the safe option 40 percent of the time no matter how the question was framed. 

In another experiment, researchers challenged native Korean speakers who had learned English to make bets. Would they be willing accept a bet if it meant big winnings and minor losses? When asked in their native language, participants accepted the bets in 57 percent of the trials. When asked in English, they accepted the bets in 67 percent of the trials. 

Clearly, fear and insecurity have a weaker grip on a mind that thinks and speaks a different language. When you think in a foreign language, you lose your emotional attachments. You become more rational and more analytical with your thoughts. Try it for yourself!

 

(Photo by Kristin / BeautyRedefined via Flickr Creative Commons)

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