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Apr 13
2014

MORALS depend on language

Posted by JoseTori  filed under morals, language   0 Comment(s)    Add a Comment  comment-icon.png

Recent social experiments and research has shown that a person's morals, judgments, decisions and risks taken may depend on the native-ness of the language in which a dilemma is presented. Results of these studies suggest people chose differently when identical dilemmas or questions are given to people in their native language versus a foreign one.

This discovery has important consequences for our globalized world as many individuals make moral judgments in both native and foreign languages. Immigrants face personal moral dilemmas in a foreign language on a daily basis, sometimes dilemmas with even larger stakes such as when serving as a jury member in a trial. Foreign languages are used in international, multilingual forums such as the United Nations, the European Union, large investment firms and international corporations in general. Moral choices within these domains can be explained better, and are made more predictable by our discovery. Indeed, awareness of the impact of the native-ness of the language on moral dilemmas is fundamental to making more informed choices. Whether you believe that adherence to moral rules is a better choice or that a utilitarian cost-benefit analysis is the better one regardless of your morals, your decisions should not be a function of the native-ness of the language you are using. It shouldn’t matter if you are considering the life of “the large man” or of “el hombre grande.” But it does matter. Given that what we have discovered is surprising and unintuitive, increasing awareness of the impact of using a foreign language may help us check our decision-making context and make choices that are based on the things that should really matter.

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