Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Five Examples of How the Languages We Speak Can Affect the Way We Think

Economist Keith Chen starts today’s talk with an observation: to say, “This is my uncle,” in Chinese, you have no choice but to encode more information about said uncle. The language requires that you denote the side the uncle is on, whether he’s related by marriage or birth and, if it’s your father’s brother, whether he’s older or younger. “All of this information is obligatory. Chinese doesn’t let me ignore it,” says Chen. “In fact, if I want to speak correctly, Chinese forces me to constantly think about it.” This got Chen wondering: Is there a connection between language and how we think and behave? In particular, Chen wanted to know: does our language affect our economic decisions?
Chen designed a study...to look at how language might affect individual’s ability to save for the future. According to his results, it does — big time. more

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