Living in a Native Tongue

Living in a Native Tongue

Boaz Keysar, PhD
University of Chicago
Professor of Psychology, Department of Psychology


While using language, we make decisions, pass judgments, apply ethics, negotiate and so on. Our research demonstrates that the use of a native tongue systematically affects such judgments and choices because language provides an emotional connection which in turn shapes and sometimes biases decisions. We investigate this by comparing decisions made in one’s native tongue to those made while using a foreign language. Because a foreign language is less emotionally connected, it reduces decision-making biases, and affects risk attitudes as well as moral choice. Living and functioning in a language, then, has surprising consequences for how individuals think, feel and operate, and it has important implications for millions of people who use a foreign language for social policy, negotiation and diplomacy.

Multilingualism and Decision-Making Lab

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