• Spain edition
 
Language matters
'People are more logical in a foreign language'
Emotions are less likely to get in the way when you make decisions in a foreign language. File photo: Aislinn Ritchie

'People are more logical in a foreign language'

Published: 08 Jan 2014 10:12 GMT+01:00
Updated: 08 Jan 2014 10:12 GMT+01:00

It turns out using a foreign language is not always a disadvantage. People are better at making rational decisions when they are not using their native language, new research by Spanish scientists shows.

People make decisions differently depending on whether they are operating in a first or second language, the team from Barcelona's Universidad Pompeu Fabra found.

"We recruited a group of Spanish native speakers who had a reasonable, but not very high level of English, and who don't use the language regularly," study author Albert Costa told The Local.

"We then asked them to do a series of decision-making tests in both their native Spanish and in English," said Costa who heads up the Speech Production and Bilingualism unit at the Universidad Pompeu Fabra.

Those tests involved four different types of individual decision-making problems and tackled issues like risk and certainty as well as loss aversion, or the idea that people are prefer to avoid loss than acquire gains.  

"When people used their native language, their choices tended to be more affected by emotional factors," said study author Alberat Costa who heads up the Speech Production and Bilingualism unit at the Universidad Pompeu Fabra.

"But we found the study participants tended to be more rational and 'colder' in their problem-solving when using their second language — in this case English."

The study backs up the findings of a 2012 University of Chicago study which also found that using a foreign language reduces decision-making bias.

"We propose that these effects arise because a foreign language provides greater cognitive and emotional distance than a native tongue does," said the authors of that study.

Don't miss stories about Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

George Mills (george.mills@thelocal.com)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
'Guantanamo Bay torture case still open': Judge
A US soldier walking next to the razor wire-topped fence at the abandoned "Camp X-Ray" detention facility at the US Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on April 9th. Photo: Mladen Antonov/AFP

'Guantanamo Bay torture case still open': Judge

A Spanish judge on Tuesday defied pressure to scrap a probe into alleged torture in the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay which targets former US president George W. Bush. READ () »

One in three Spanish kids 'at risk of poverty'
The number of under-18s in Spain "at risk of poverty or marginalization" soared to more than 2.8 million in 2012. Photo: Philippe Desmazes/AFP

One in three Spanish kids 'at risk of poverty'

The charity Save the Children launched a petition on Tuesday urging Spain to do more for deprived children in the crisis-hit country, where one in three minors lives at risk of poverty. READ () »

Man signs up as organ donor then kills himself
Police have found a video recording at his home address in which he allegedly explained the reasons for his suicide. Photo: Juan Carlos/AFP

Man signs up as organ donor then kills himself

A man in the Spanish city of Valencia shot himself in the head on Monday just moments after he'd asked two nurses at a local hospital to sign him up as an organ donor. READ () »

Independent Catalonia can stay in EU: Report
Catalan supporters display Esteladas (non-official Catalan independence flags) during the friendly football match Catalonia national team vs Cape Verde national team in Barcelona in December 2013. Fil

Independent Catalonia can stay in EU: Report

A "pragmatic" European Union is unlikely to eject Catalonia if it votes to part ways with the rest of Spain: that's the argument put forward in a new report by a team of pro-independence advisers to the region's government. READ () »

Expat Finances
Spanish tax returns: A handy expat guide

Spanish tax returns: A handy expat guide

Confused about Spanish tax returns? Don't stress: there's help at hand. The Local spoke recently Paul Greene of Spain Accountants to get the lowdown on who needs to file and what sort of deductions are available. READ () »

36.3%: Andalusia has EU's highest jobless rate
Seven of the ten regions in the European Union with the hightest unemployment are in Spain. File photo: Lluis Gene/AFP

36.3%: Andalusia has EU's highest jobless rate

Some 36.3 percent of people are out of work in Spain's Andalusia's region: that's the most in Europe and 14 times higher than in Germany's Upper Bavaria, which has the lowest jobless rate in the EU, figures released on Tuesday show. READ () »

Found: Stunning Gaudí stained glass windows
Both pieces reflect Gaudí’s highly distinctive style. Photo: Institute of Catalan Studies

Found: Stunning Gaudí stained glass windows

Two stained glass masterpieces made by Catalonia's most prolific architect, Antoni Gaudí, have been discovered after being stashed away in a chapel outside Barcelona for decades. READ () »

Young Spaniards scrape by in ruthless London
Ulises López, a 27-year-old artist from Alicante, works as a freelance cartoonist in London, one of many Spaniards seeking opportunity in the UK capital. Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP

Young Spaniards scrape by in ruthless London

More and more young Spaniards, forced to leave home by crippling unemployment, are attracted to London by the prospect of work and the chance to learn English — but often run into a fresh set of problems. READ () »

Spain to open first gay old people's home
"In Madrid alone, there are 160,000 LGBT affiliates above the age of 65,” says Federico Armenteros, head of the foudation. Photo of elderly gay couple: Shuttersto

Spain to open first gay old people's home

A Madrid foundation wants to offer the country's elderly gay and lesbian community a place where they can be open about their sexuality without facing rejection or bullying from their peers. The Local Spain speaks to their president. READ () »

Police face prison after torturing Brits
Two members of Spain's Civil Guard police force outside a prison in the Spanish town of Teixeiro. File photo: Miguel Riopa/AFP

Police face prison after torturing Brits

A public prosecutor in Spain is seeking long prison sentences for four police officers who allegedly tortured two Brits while they were in custody in 2009. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Culture
Seven surprising facts about Spain's Holy Week
National
Spanish tax office sells bras for extra cash
Society
Abortion Travel: 'The agency that should never exist'
National
Top expat moans about Spain on Twitter
Society
Email gaffe reveals how Spanish firms exploit young workers
National
Man hacks off own fingers in insurance scam
Travel & Tourism
Top ten: Spain's best beaches 2014
National
Lovemaking lands woman at bottom of well
International
Jobless Spaniards to be kicked out of Germany
Sponsored Article
Why it pays to avoid banks when making overseas transfers
Health
Serial texter suffers first case of 'WhatsAppitis'
Politics
Six reasons why Suárez is Spain's best loved PM
Politics
'Energy giants out to kill off Spain's solar sector'
Society
Spain's hottest jobs 2014
National
Man dies while taking selfie on top of train
Society
Spanish PM turns down free English course
Travel & Tourism
Top Ten: Spain's coolest hotels 2014
Culture
A to Z of The Local's picture galleries
Culture
Scientists discover why some of us 'hate' music
Features
How Barcelona is getting it wrong on cannabis
National
'Spain could be a world leader in solar power'
Society
Could this Spanish Duchess claim the Scottish crown?
Society
Global 'British grub' map satisfies expat cravings
Health
Spain's UK expats to lose free NHS health care
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

1,391
jobs available