New lab publication in International Journal of Bilingualism

Choosing is losing: Emotional attenuation in foreign language decision-making

Introduction: Recent research suggests that people who make decisions in a foreign language (FL) tend to be less emotionally affected and hence more utilitarian than in their native language (NL) (e.g. Costa, Vives, & Corey, 2017). One of the possible explanations for this effect involves the concept of emotional attenuation. Hence, the current study employed five personal dilemmas with varying levels of emotionality, under the hypothesis that the FL effect would disappear in highly emotional dilemmas, as these might evoke a maximal and therefore similar emotional response in the FL and NL. Furthermore, we included both second (L2) and third (L3) language conditions. Method: 557 native speakers of Dutch with English and French as their L2 or L3 were considered for the analysis. From each participant, proficiency measures in different languages were gathered. All participants were randomly assigned to one of five dilemmas either in Dutch, French or English, for which they were offered a choice between a utilitarian and a deontological response.

Results: Our results showed the FL effect was present and strongest in the least emotional dilemmas and absent in the most emotional ones. The effect was however not more or less prominent in the less proficient third language.

Discussion: The current results support the hypothesis that FL processing leads to emotional attenuation (up to a certain level) and brings about less deontological reasoning. However, we also propose a role of response agreement.
Keywords: decision-making, moral judgment, bilingualism, foreign language effect, response agreement

Woumans, E., Planckaert, N., & Duyck, W. (in press). Choosing is losing: Emotional attenuation in foreign language decision-making. International Journal of Bilingualism. Impact Factor: 1.721. Ranking Q2.. PDF available here

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