The potential benefits of language learning have been all over the news: Second language learning fosters cognitive development. It increases brain functions. It can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. It improves first language knowledge and performance.
A new study shows that “Reasoning is Sharper in a Foreign Language”: We tend to be more risk-averse in our first language when presented with a choice between potential loss and potential gain – for example when gambling – even if the eventual outcome is the same. This cognitive bias disappears when the same decision is put to us in a foreign language: “When people use a foreign language, their decisions tend to be less biased, more analytic, more systematic, because the foreign language provides psychological distance”, according to Boaz Keysar, lead author of the study which was first published in Psychological Science in April 2012. The authors propose that “these effects arise because a foreign language provides greater cognitive and emotional distance than a native tongue does.”
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