Our moral choices are foreign to us

Joanna D. Corey*, Sayuri Lynn Hayakawa, Alice Foucart, Melina Aparici, Juan Botella, Albert Costa, Boaz Keysar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations

Abstract

Though moral intuitions and choices seem fundamental to our core being, there is surprising new evidence that people resolve moral dilemmas differently when they consider them in a foreign language (Cipolletti et al., 2016; Costa et al., 2014a; Geipel et al., 2015): People are more willing to sacrifice 1 person to save 5 when they use a foreign language compared with when they use their native tongue. Our findings show that the phenomenon is robust across various contexts and that multiple factors affect it, such as the severity of the negative consequences associated with saving the larger group. This has also allowed us to better describe the phenomenon and investigate potential explanations. Together, our results suggest that the foreign language effect is most likely attributable to an increase in psychological distance and a reduction in emotional response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1109-1128
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Volume43
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2017

Keywords

  • Bilingualism
  • Decision making
  • Foreign language
  • Moral psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language

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