Foreign Language Effect (FLE): definition, examples, explanatory hypotheses and suggestions for future research

Riccardo Circi, Giuseppe Curcio


The term foreign language indicates a non native language, learned in a classroom context, outside the normal environment in which usually it is used by a mother tongue. The Foreign Language Effect (FLE) is the phenomenon of the activation of systematic reasoning processes by thinking in a foreign language, and such processes are different from those that take place by using the mother tongue. In the last years an increasing amount of scientific literature showed that making a decision in a foreign language can significantly influence formal logic rules, strongly modifying well-known phenomena as framing effect or loss aversion bias, and having an impact on the way in which people think about moral dilemmas. The aim of this literature review, through a punctual analysis of more recent published studies, is to provide a general overview on the FLE phenomenon, on its characteristics, main explanatory hypotheses and some possible future investigations in this field.


foreign language effect (FLE); native language; foreign language; decision making

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