Linguistics and English Language

Bilingualism reading group

Speaker: Zoe Schlueter (University of Edinburgh)

Title: Reasoning in a second language does not make you more rational when it comes to loss aversion

Abstract: Research on cognitive reasoning biases has shown that people are predictably irrational in their decision-making (Kahneman 2011). However, some recent work suggests that they are less prone to classic cognitive biases in their second language (L2) than in their first language (L1) (Costa et al. 2014, Keysar et al. 2012). This “foreign language effect” has been argued to show that decision-making heuristics are less dominant in L2 than L1 reasoning and has been attributed to a lower emotionality associated with the L2 (Costa et al. 2014). However, an alternative explanation is that the materials in these experiments are susceptible to multiple interpretations and a decision that is irrational under one interpretation is perfectly rational under another interpretation (as shown in monolinguals by Mandel 2013). Therefore, the difference between L1 and L2 speakers might be due to subtle differences between native and non-native interpretations affected by proficiency. We present data from two experiments examining the effect of proficiency on loss aversion bias in native Spanish speakers at different levels of English proficiency. We do not replicate the finding that L2 users in general are “more rational” in their decision making than L1 speakers, but the results indicate that loss aversion bias is affected by proficiency in the L2. Moreover, our results suggest that high proficiency L2 speakers behave like L1 speakers in respect to loss aversion, both with materials susceptible to pragmatic enrichment and with materials inducing exact interpretations.


Please contact Lihua Xia or Martha Robinson to find out specific dates for this semester and/or to be added on the mailing list.

Lihua Xia

Martha Robinson

Feb 11 2019 -

Bilingualism reading group

2019-02-11: Reasoning in a second language does not make you more rational when it comes to loss aversion

Room S38, Psychology Building, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ