Human-ities · Science

Using a foreign language changes moral decisions

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.”

Read full article at Science Daily.

Human-ities · Public Space · Social/Politics · Theory

Economics and the Brain: How People Really Make Decisions in Turbulent Times

In a 2008 paper on neuroeconomics, Stanford economist George Loewenstein said: “Whereas psychologists tend to view humans as fallible and sometime even self-destructive, economists tend to view people as efficient maximisers of self-interest who make mistakes only when imperfectly informed about the consequences of their actions.”

This view of humans as completely rational – and the market as eminently efficient – is relatively recent. In 1922, in the Journal of Political Economy, Rexford G. Tugwell, said (to paraphrase) that a mind evolved to function best in “the exhilarations and the fatigues of the hunt, the primitive warfare and in the precarious life of nomadism”, had been strangely and quickly transported into a different milieu, without much time to modify the equipment of the old life.

The field of economics has since rejected this more pragmatic (and I would argue, realistic) view of human behavior, in favor of the simpler and neater “rational choice” perspective, which viewed the power of reflection as the only force driving human behavior.

But to paraphrase sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, our currently held views of what is reasonable, sensible and good sense tend to take shape in response to the realities “out there” as seen through the prism of human practice – what humans currently do, know how to do, are trained, groomed and inclined to do.

We compare ourselves to people we know, and come into contact with – either through social groups, or lately, with the advent of mass and, even fragmented media, people we think are like us.

Excerpt of an article written by Paul Harrison, The Conversation. Continue HERE