What is it about?

Language and personality influence how we make moral decisions, but to what extent? Our study challenges the idea that using a second language leads to less emotional involvement. Instead of language, what influenced moral choices were personality traits associated with psychopathy. Participants with higher scores in meanness were more likely to choose to cause harm to prevent greater harm, regardless of the language or nature of the dilemma. Psychopathic traits also interacted with how participants perceived aspects of the dilemmas, such as how vivid or realistic they seemed.

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Why is it important?

Our study indicates that early bilinguals in a dual-language context, using similar Romance languages, don't show the Foreign Language effect described by previous studies (even in early bilinguals of Romance languages). Instead, personality traits like meanness can shape moral decisions, no matter the language or type of dilemma. Understanding these factors gives us valuable insights into the complex world of moral decision-making, allowing us to delve deeper into its study.


Writing this article was a pleasure for me because it brought together one of my PhD research topics –moral decision-making– and my new research lines related with education and development. I am very satisfied with the work done, and I think that the paper could lead to some new lines of research.

Dr. Albert Flexas
Universitat de les Illes Balears

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This page is a summary of: Meanness trumps language: Lack of foreign language effect in early bilinguals’ moral choices, PLoS ONE, November 2023, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0294523.
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