Limits of the foreign language effect: intertemporal choice

Thinking and Reasoning 28 (1):97-124 (2022)
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Abstract

Intertemporal choice requires one to decide between smaller sooner and larger later payoffs and is captured by discount rates. Across two preregistered experiments testing three language pairs (Polish vs. English, Spanish, and German; Experiment 1) and with incentivized participants (Experiment 2), we found no evidence that using a foreign language decreased the strength or increased the consistency of intertemporal choices. On the contrary, there was some evidence of stronger discounting when a foreign language was used. We confirmed prior findings that more reflective individuals discount less strongly but observed that they were just as (un)affected by using foreign language as less reflective individuals. Thus, we provide preliminary evidence that the foreign language effect is robust to individual differences in cognitive reflection.

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