"Piensa" twice: On the foreign language effect in decision making

Albert Costa*, Alice Foucart, Inbal Arnon, Melina Aparici, Jose Apesteguia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

209 Scopus citations


In this article, we assess to what extent decision making is affected by the language in which a given problem is presented (native vs. foreign). In particular, we aim to ask whether the impact of various heuristic biases in decision making is diminished when the problems are presented in a foreign language. To this end, we report four main studies in which more than 700 participants were tested on different types of individual decision making problems. In the first study, we replicated Keysar et al.'s (2012) recent observation regarding the foreign language effect on framing effects related to loss aversion. In the second section, we assessed whether the foreign language effect is present in other types of framing problems that involve psychological accounting biases rather than gain/loss dichotomies. In the third section, we studied the foreign language effect in several key aspects of the theory of decision making under risk and uncertainty. In the fourth study, we assessed the presence of a foreign language effect in the cognitive reflection test, a test that includes logical problems that do not carry emotional connotations. The absence of such an effect in this test suggests that foreign language leads to a reduction of heuristic biases in decision making across a range of decision making situations and provide also some evidence about the boundaries of the phenomenon. We explore several potential factors that may underlie the foreign language effect in decision making.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)236-254
Number of pages19
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was partially supported by grants from the Spanish Government (PSI2011-23033, CONSOLIDER-INGENIO2010 CSD2007-00048, ECO2011-25295, and ECO2010-09555-E) and from the Catalan Government (SGR 2009-1521). Alice Foucart was supported by a post-doctoral fellowship from the Catalan Government (Grant Beatriu de Pinos).


  • Cognitive fluency
  • Emotional resonance
  • Foreign language effect


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