People who can think in a foreign language are more able to rationally analyze risk compared with evaluating risk in their native language, found University of Chicago’s Boaz Keysar, Sayuri L. Hayakawa, and Sun Gyu An.
When volunteers analyzed risks presented in their native language, they were risk-averse when considering potential gains and more risk- tolerant when considering possible losses.
However, they were did not show this risk assessment bias when they considered the same risks vs rewards in a foreign language.
Using a foreign language reduced loss aversion and increased acceptance of hypothetical and real bets with positive expected values.
This effect could occur because foreign languages are typically processed more slowly than in a native tongue, leading to more deliberate cognitive processing, argued Concordia University’s Micheline Favreau and Norman Segalowitz.
Foreign language processing generally requires greater cognition-intensive systematic, analytical effort, leading to increased emotional and cognitive distance than in a native tongue, suggested Princeton’s Daniel Kahneman in his distinction between Thinking Fast and Slow.
Even when people fully understand language nuances including colloquialisms, impolite words, terms of endearment and reproach, they react less emotionally in a foreign language, according to self-report and electrodermal measurements, found Erasmus University’s Stefano Puntoni, Bart de Langhe of University of Colorado, and Cornell’s Stijn M.J. van Osselaer.
As a result, more than half the participants preferred the riskier option presented in a foreign language instead of the native tongue.
This finding confirmed participants’ tendency toward myopic risk aversion, or greater sensitivity to losses when thinking and acting in their native language, described by University of Chicago’s Richard Thaler, Amos Tversky of Stanford, Princeton’s Kahneman, and Alan Schwartz of University of Illinois.
Among more than 140 native Korean speakers and more than 100 English speakers in Paris, Keysar’s team confirmed the same pattern of enhanced deliberation and reduced framing effects in a foreign language in hypothetical low-loss, high-gain bets.
Just 57 percent of Korean-speaking participants accepted bets offered in Korean, contrasted with 67 percent when offered in English, suggesting heightened deliberation in a second language.
Likewise, more than 50 English-speaking volunteers who spoke Spanish as a second language received $15 in $1 bills, which could be kept or bet on a coin toss.
For every lost toss, participants lost $1.
However, if they won, they kept the $1 and earned another $1.50, a significant return on the chance bet.
When conducted in participants’ native English language, 54% accepted bets, whereas when presented in Spanish, 71% agreed to bet.
“They take more bets in a foreign language because they…are less affected by the typically exaggerated aversion to losses … People who routinely make decisions in a foreign language rather than their native tongue might be less biased in their savings, investment, and retirement decisions, as a result of reduced myopic loss aversion” wrote Keysar and colleagues.
-*How do you reduce “myopic risk aversion” in your native language?
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