Would you make the same decisions in a foreign language as you would in your native tongue? It may be intuitive that people would make the same choices regardless of the language they are using, or that the difficulty of using a foreign language would make decisions less systematic. We discovered, however, that the opposite is true: Using a foreign language reduces decision-making biases.
The Foreign-Language Effect (via @vaughanbell)
The foreign-language effect on decision making is most likely determined by multiple factors that increase psychological distance and promote deliberation. Perhaps the most impor- tant mechanism for our effect is the reduction in emotional resonance that is associated with using a foreign language. Emotions and affect play an important role in decision making and in considerations of risk […]. An emotional reaction sometimes induces a less systematic decision. Making a decision in a foreign language could reduce the emotional reaction, thereby reducing bias. […]
So I guess it’s a good thing that recently I found myself thinking in English more and more often.
(Picture via ApeLad)
There are days I’m in a bad mood, I avoid talk to people and I just want to watch an horror movie. In these days, every little noise sounds unbearably loud. The footsteps in another room, the voice from some tv show, my brother typing at his computer, a cell phone that vibrates.
Now I know from a research by Siegel and Stefanucci ('A little bit louder now: negative affect increases perceived loudness' 2011) that I’m not alone. They examined whether negative affect have an impact on auditory perception. In order to induce negative affect in the participants, the researchers asked them to write, in as much detail as possible, about a frightening experience. The subjects in the control group instead were asked to write “what you do when you get ready in the morning”. After that the participants listened to some tones and have to rate their loudness.
Participants in a negative affective state rated the tones as significantly louder than participants in a neutral state. Those who had written about a frightening experience perceived the tones as louder than those who had written about a neutral experience. The results of the experiment show that inducing a negative effect have a specific influence only in the perception of loudness, in fact there was no difference when participants were asked to rate duration of the tones.
Many studies showed how emotional arousal is associated with changes in visual perception, this experiment show how emotional arousal is associated even in changes in auditory perception. The researchers said that the neural mechanisms for this phenomenon are not well understood, they suggest that the amygdala may have a role, because it projects to auditory areas in the temporal lobe.
The authors suggest a fascinating hypothesis about why this happens:
The final question is why negative affect would change auditory perception. Mineka and Ohman (2002) suggest that low-level negative affect is selective, automatic, impenetrable to conscious cognitive control, and evolved in order to help us form quick associations when threatened. In this context, affect may influence auditory perception so that we respond more quickly when threatened. If a bear is chasing a listener in the woods, perceiving the bear to be closer than he really is (because his roar sounds louder) could motivate the listener to move more quickly out of his way and to safety.
May be totally unrelated, but yesterday after I first read this research, I also read this post in which appears a letter written by David Foster Wallace when he was a student, about a rude guy who listened AC/DC too loud: Take your speakers, and stick them in your ear.
We found the reluctance to share data to be associated with weaker evidence (against the null hypothesis of no effect) and a higher prevalence of apparent errors in the reporting of statistical results. The unwillingness to share data was particularly clear when reporting errors had a bearing on statistical significance.
Our results show that regardless of how open minded people are, when they feel motivated to reduce uncertainty either because they have an immediate goal of reducing uncertainty, or feel uncertain generally, this may bring negative associations with creativity to mind which result in lower evaluations of a creative idea. Our findings imply a deep irony. Prior research shows that uncertainty spurs the search for and generation of creative ideas […], yet our findings reveal that uncertainty also makes us less able to recognize creativity, perhaps when we need it most.
The Unexamined Society
[…] We have two traditional understandings of poverty. The first presumes people are rational. They are pursuing their goals effectively and don’t need much help in changing their behavior. The second presumes that the poor are afflicted by cultural or psychological dysfunctions that sometimes lead them to behave in shortsighted ways. Neither of these theories has produced much in the way of effective policies.
Eldar Shafir of Princeton and Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard have recently, […] been exploring a third theory, that scarcity produces its own cognitive traits. […]
Poorer people have to think hard about a million things that affluent people don’t. They have to make complicated trade-offs when buying a carton of milk: If I buy milk, I can’t afford orange juice. They have to decide which utility not to pay. These questions impose enormous cognitive demands. The brain has limited capacities. If you increase demands on one sort of question, it performs less well on other sorts of questions.
Shafir and Mullainathan gave batteries of tests to Indian sugar farmers. After they sell their harvest, they live in relative prosperity. During this season, the farmers do well on the I.Q. and other tests. But before the harvest, they live amid scarcity and have to think hard about a thousand daily decisions. During these seasons, these same farmers do much worse on the tests. They appear to have lower I.Q.’s. They have more trouble controlling their attention. They are more shortsighted. Scarcity creates its own psychology. […]
Shafir and Mullainathan have a book coming out next year, exploring how scarcity — whether of time, money or calories (while dieting) — affects your psychology. They are also studying how poor people’s self-perceptions shape behavior. Many people don’t sign up for the welfare benefits because they are intimidated by the forms. Shafir and Mullainathan asked some people at a Trenton soup kitchen to relive a moment when they felt competent and others to recount a neutral experience. Nearly half of the self-affirming group picked up an available benefits package afterward. Only 16 percent of the neutral group did.
People are complicated. We each have multiple selves, which emerge or don’t depending on context. If we’re going to address problems, we need to understand the contexts and how these tendencies emerge or don’t emerge. […]
This figure shows four key principles to guide research and intervention with child soldiers, it’s from a paper by Khort, Jordans and Morley ('Four principles of mental health research and psychosocial intervention for child soldiers: lessons learned in Nepal’, 2010) [pdf]
I think these four principles would be useful in any research in the mental health field.
Failure to carefully examine the literature for similar research
Failure to critically assess the prior literature
Failure to specify the inclusion and exclusion criteria for the subjects
Failure to determine and report the error of measurement methods
Failure to specify exact statistical assumptions made in the analysis
Failure to perform sample size analysis before the study begins
Failure to implement adequate bias control measures
Failure to write and stick to a detailed time line
Failure to vigorously recruit and retain subjects
Failure to have a detailed, written and vetted protocol
Failure to examine for normality of data
Failure to report missing data, dropped subjects and use of an intention to treat analysis
Failure to perform and report power calculations
Failure to point out the weaknesses of own study
Failure to understand and use correct scientific language.
We spend an enormous amount of our leisure time engaged with fictional narratives. Our free time revolves around fictional stories, whether it be the morning comic strip, the novel we read on the subway on the way to work, the television show we watch after dinner, or the book that waits for us on our nightstand. Despite the prominent role that these experiences play in our lives surprisingly little psychological research has been devoted to this topic. The necessity of mending this situation, however, is gradually gaining attention (Miall, 2000; Mar and Oatley, 2008). Our engagement with fictional narratives is interesting not just for the prominent place these stories appear to have in our lives, but also because the experience we undergo while engaging with them is unique. When reading a novel or watching a film we become immersed in the world presented to us (Nell, 1988), transported to new places with new people (Gerrig, 1993). In these narrative worlds we experience a simulated reality and feel real emotions in response to the conflicts and relationships of story characters (Oatley, 1994). Stories thus appear to offer us a deeplyfelt simulation of social experience (Oatley, 1999) that may hold real consequences for our actual social world (Mar and Oatley, 2008; Mar, Oatley, and Djikic, 2008). Specifically, engaging with narrative fiction and mentally simulating the social experiences represented may improve or maintain social skills, especially skills of empathy and social understanding. […]