The temporal dynamics of bilingual moral decision making: An eye-tracking study on moral dilemma judgement in the native and foreign language.

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Previous research has shown an increase in the rate of utilitarian decisions when participants were presented with moral dilemmas in their foreign language rather than their native language. This so-called moral foreign language effect (MFLE) has been investigated in bilinguals who typically had to respond with an offline yes or no decision to moral dilemmas in written or auditory form. The aim of the current study was not only to investigate the presence of the MFLE, but also to track bilinguals’ eye gaze preferences before and after making such moral decisions. 40 Dutch-English bilinguals participated in a visual world eye-tracking paradigm while listening to personal and impersonal moral dilemmas in either their native or their second language. On the visual display, they saw two pictures of parties they could either save or victimize. The offline results demonstrated, as predicted, an MFLE for the personal dilemmas. Furthermore, the eye gaze results on the personal dilemmas showed that there was a similar pattern in both the native and the foreign language condition in the time window before bilinguals’ offline decision. However, in the time window after bilinguals made a moral decision, they seemed to avoid looking at the party they victimized in the native language condition. In the foreign language condition they preferred to look at the picture that was predetermined to belong to the answer that saved the most people (utilitarian) when they gave a utilitarian answer. This suggests that there might be a difference in the way utilitarian decisions for moral dilemmas are processed in both language conditions. Keywords: bilingualism, eye-tracking, moral foreign language effect, moral decision making
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