Foreign Language and Decision Making
Aimee Nunez Selva
Florida International University
The Foreign Language Effect
Keysar, Hayakawa & An (2012) conducted an experimental study to evaluate the impact of foreign language use on decision making. An experimental study refers to a study in which the researcher manipulates various factors or subject to determine the outcome in the participants. The participants are exposed to various interventions which are varied according to the investigator’s plan and the outcome measured (Keysar, Hayakawa ; An, 2012). The research was experimental in nature as shown by the disclosure of the authors that they conducted six experiments namely 1a, 1b, 1c, 1d, 2 and 3. The main variables in the study included foreign language impact on decision-making abilities such as risk attitudes and myopic loss aversion.
Experiment 1a through 1c involved an examination of risk aversion habits among the participants. The authors presented the participants with an “Asian disease” scenario that is estimated to kill 600,000 people with two options of testament whereby medicine A will save 200,000 people while medicine B has a 33.3% chance that 600,000 people will be saved and 66.6% of having no one saved (Keysar, Hayakawa ; An, 2012). Experiment 1d was a controlled study to establish whether the framing of the question could result in different findings. The second and third experiments investigated loss aversion and myopic loss aversion and consequential investment behavior respectively. Participants in experiment 2 were presented with 18 equal odds bets all with positive expected value in Korean or foreign language. Experiment 3 comprised 15 separate bets where the participants could lose or earn the money they had bet by performing the task in English or Spanish as the foreign language.
Experiment 1a involved 120 university students who were native English speakers and speaking Japanese as a foreign language (Keysar, Hayakawa ; An, 2012). Experiment 1b participants were 140 were native Korean’s who had English as a foreign language. In experiment 1c, 103 native speakers of English were selected with French as a foreign language. Experiment 1d involved 84 native English speakers whose foreign language was Spanish. 146 native Korean speakers participated in experiment 2 and were assigned to perform a task in either English or Korean. 54 students who were native speakers of English with Spanish as a foreign language were selected to participate in experiment 3.
In experiment 1a, the authors established that the preference of the sure option A with a gain frame problem was 70% and 47% with the loss frame problem. In experiment 1b and 1c, the native speakers of English and those of Korea demonstrated asymmetry when they made their choice in that language. The asymmetry was noted to disappear when the native Koreans made a choice in English or the native English speakers performing a task in French (Keysar, Hayakawa & An, 2012). The control experiment replicated the results of experiment 1a through 1c which showed that participants would likely choose the sure option but the likelihood to choose the sure option declines when using a foreign language. It was also observed that foreign language effect is not dependent on any native language.
Reliability is defined as the extent to which an assessment tool produces stable and consistent results (Bernard & Bernard, 2012). There are numerous types of reliability that include test-retest reliability, Parallel forms reliability, Inter-rater reliability, and internal consistency reliability. The results of the study are reliable given that the control experiment gave similar results just like the experimental studies. Validity refers to how well a test measures what it was supposed to measure (Bernard & Bernard, 2012). The results of the current study are valid since the variables on tests have been adequately explored and discussed.
The authors have correctly interpreted the findings in terms of the relationships between the variables and what happens when the experiment is changed. The authors were concerned with the different framing of questions as affected by foreign language and utilized a loss frame problem and a gain-frame problem. The author’s utilized statistical approaches to present their findings through graphs to enhance understanding of the study outcomes.
Researchers are required to adhere to the ethics in their dealing with human subjects. They should seek approval from the institutional ethics review board and also assure protection of their human subjects (Creswell, 2013). Keysar, Hayakawa ; An (2012) did not disclose the ethical considerations that they employed in the experimental research.
It is essential to conduct a follow-up study after an initial research work based on gaps identified during the study and opportunities for future research (Creswell, 2013). The authors did not provide suggestions for any future studies that could be done based on their findings.
The findings from the experimental study by Keysar, Hayakawa ; An (2012) are strong given that they correspond with similar studies conducted on the same subject. The experimental approach is one of the factors that make the findings strong since there is manipulation of treatment as well as a control experiment (Creswell, 2013). The authors established that people have an increased tendency to follow normative rules when making decisions in a foreign language than when their native language is involved. The authors have cited numerous other studies that correspond with their findings which show that the results of the study are strong.
It is evident from the findings that foreign language has an impact on the decision-making ability of an individual. The use of a foreign language reduces emotional resonance since emotions affect the ability of a person to make decisions especially during consideration of risk (Keysar, Hayakawa ; An, 2012). An individual who portrays an emotional reaction may not be able to make a systematic decision. Emotional reactions to situation include a great attraction to sure gains and a strong aversion to sure losses. The findings imply that an individual can be able to overcome emotional reactions during decision making by using a foreign language.
The authors used experimental research to establish the impact of foreign language on decision making. The approach has its own limitations and disadvantages just like any other research method. An experimental research can create artificial situations due to manipulation and control which may not be reflected in real life (Bryman, 2016). The reactions of subjects may also not correspond to the non-experimental environment due to control. The validity of the findings in experimental research is highly dependent on human factors. Moreover, the approach is critical in determining causation but cannot describe the reason behind the observation.
The experimental approach was the most suitable for the study since it facilitates conducting research in controlled situations and manipulating the variables to determine the outcome. It was the most appropriate approach to the study. Experimentation is the most appropriate strategy to arrive at causal conclusions where one or more factors have an impact on the outcome (Bryman, 2016).
Keysar, Hayakawa ; An (2012) conducted six experimental studies to evaluate how decision-making could be affected by the use of foreign language. Experiment 1a, 1b, and 1c investigated risk aversion habits while experiment 1d was a controlled study. Experiment 2 examined loss aversion while the third experiment investigated myopic loss aversion and consequential investment behavior. The experiments involved the use of a primary language and a foreign language and comparison made on how the participants made their choices. The authors concluded that foreign language diminishes the emotional response to situations which enable an individual to make better choices in life.
Bernard, H. R., ; Bernard, H. R. (2012). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. Sage.
Bryman, A. (2016). Social research methods. Oxford university press.
Creswell, J. W. (2013). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approach. Sage publications.
Keysar, B., Hayakawa, S. L., ; An, S. G. (2012). The foreign-language effect: Thinking in a foreign tongue reduces decision biases. Psychological science, 23(6), 661-668.