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Old 05-01-2014   #1
TheCurmudgeon
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Default If you want to raise the "Passion" of the people, do it in their native tongue

An interesting piece that suggests that people have a more emotional response to moral issues when presented to them in their native language than in their second language.

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A new study from psychologists at the University of Chicago and Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona finds that people using a foreign language take a relatively utilitarian approach to moral dilemmas, making decisions based on assessments of what's best for the common good. That pattern holds even when the utilitarian choice would produce an emotionally difficult outcome, such as sacrificing one life so others could live.

"This discovery has important consequences for our globalized world, as many individuals make moral judgments in both native and foreign languages," says Boaz Keysar, Professor of Psychology at UChicago. "The real world implications could include an immigrant serving as a jury member in a trial, who may approach decision-making differently than a native-English speaker." Leading author Albert Costa, UPF psychologist adds that "deliberations at places like the United Nations, the European Union, large international corporations or investment firms can be better explained or made more predictable by this discovery."

The researchers propose that the foreign language elicits a reduced emotional response. That provides a psychological distance from emotional concerns when making moral decisions. Previous studies from both research groups independently found a similar effect for making economic decisions.
If we assume that, to start or maintain a war you need to raise the passion of the people, then you may want to do it in their native tongue, or the “passion’ may be replaced by logic and not have the same effect.
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Old 05-01-2014   #2
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I wonder how much money was wasted studying what should be obvious...

And I seriously doubt that this will make predicting deliberations any easier, since language is shaped by, and in turn shapes, culture. The US doesn't tend to "do" culture education very well, especially now with the obsessive focus on STEM degrees. And, of course, deliberations of any sort involve people...and people are often difficult to predict.
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Old 05-01-2014   #3
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Not sure how much money was wasted, but I am sure someone is getting their Doctorate out of this.

A little more on the nature of the experiment:


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You’re on a railway bridge. Below you, a train is heading full speed towards five unsuspecting people working on the track. There is a fat man standing on the bridge with you. If you shoved him off, his impact would stop the train, and you would save the five workers. Would you push him?

According to new research, your answer to that question depends largely on whether you are reading it as a native English speaker, or as someone with a different mother tongue. Researchers from the University of Chicago and the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona presented this moral dilemma to 725 participants, most of whom were native speakers of Spanish with English as a foreign language, or native speakers of English with Spanish as a foreign language. They discovered that when participants were presented with the dilemma in their native tongue, they were far less likely to opt for pushing the fat man than those who read the description in their second language. Native English speakers were almost twice as likely to push "el hombre grande" than "the large man". Breaking a moral code by killing the bystander seems easier to do when considering the problem in a language learnt later in life. The authors of the study attribute this to the fact that foreign language appears to trigger a less emotional response, leaving people more able to make a pragmatic decision.
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Old 05-01-2014   #4
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Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
Not sure how much money was wasted, but I am sure someone is getting their Doctorate out of this.

A little more on the nature of the experiment:
I'm sure they are, too. It's a shame they didn't just review some history.
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Old 05-01-2014   #5
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I am curious what affect this has on translators. If I am explaining why we must take a certain action to a person whose second language is English, do they understand the urgency or have any empathy for my Soldiers plight? When they translate that into another language does that emotion come across to the other party?
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Old 05-01-2014   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
I am curious what affect this has on translators. If I am explaining why we must take a certain action to a person whose second language is English, do they understand the urgency or have any empathy for my Soldiers plight? When they translate that into another language does that emotion come across to the other party?
There's obviously no simple answer to this because much depends on the quality of the translator and his/her relationship with the person he/she is translating for. I suspect that the answer to your questions is yes if you're dealing with a truly skilled translator who also has a firm understanding of US culture and language use as well as grasp of English. The lower their understanding (or desire to understand), the less effective they'll be.
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