The role of intentions and outcomes in the foreign language effect on moral judgements

Albert Costa, Joanna D. Corey, Sayuri Lynn Hayakawa, Melina Aparici, Marc Lluís Vives, Boaz Keysar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


We explore the origin of the foreign language effect on moral judgements by assessing whether language context alters the weight given to intentions and outcomes during moral judgement. Specifically, we investigated whether foreign language contexts, compared with native ones, may lead people to focus more on the outcomes of an action and less on the intentions behind it. We report two studies in which participants read scenarios in which the actor’s intentions and the resulting consequences were manipulated. As previously shown, people considered both the actor’s intentions and the action’s outcomes when assessing the damage, cause, moral wrongness, responsibility, and punishment deserved. However, although the foreign language context reduced the impact of intentions on damage assessment, the overall effect of intention and outcomes on these variables was mainly the same in the foreign and the native language contexts. We conclude that differential weighting of intentions and outcomes is unlikely to account for the impact of foreign language use on moral judgement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-17
Number of pages10
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Moral judgement
  • bilingualism
  • foreign language processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Physiology (medical)


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