Decision-Making in Foreign Language Reduces Emotional Arousal


The study of bilingual’s qualities suggests that their decision-making process might differ in both languages. A recent research by Keysar, Hayakawa & An (2012) investigated the phenomenon of reduction in emotional reactivity in the second language on decision-making process, especially amongst bilinguals who acquired their second language later in life, often in a more formal setting (Pavlenko, 2005). This research intended to show a more convincing argument regarding this phenomenon by checking the participants’ physiological arousal during the decision processes, using three physiological measures (Electrocardiogram, Galvanic Skin Response and Electroencephalogram). In congruence with the detachment effect theory, our hypothesis is that when bilinguals think in their foreign language, less emotional reactivity will be shown. The participants (N = 69) are students from Tel-Hai academic college. All of them, native Hebrew speakers who speak English as a foreign language, accomplish a decision-making task (Robert’s apperception test for children 2). All the tasks were performed in both languages, one after the other, while being connected to the physiological measures which measured their arousal in-vivo. In accordance with our hypothesis, a significant difference was found in the task. A significant difference was also found in the Electroencephalogram of the right prefrontal cortex but in the opposite direction to our initial hypothesis. No other significant differences were found. The explanation for these results might derive from a different phenomenon that is well documented, and the anxiety that stem from the need of using a foreign language (Woodrow, 2006). Although we were not able to demonstrate an emotional detachment effect on a physiological level, we believe that holding the anxiety variable constant will yield that effect in future studies.

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Lazar, J. , Stern, A. & Cohen, R. (2014). Decision-Making in Foreign Language Reduces Emotional Arousal. Psychology, 5, 2180-2188. doi: 10.4236/psych.2014.519220.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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