Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Switching languages can also switch personality: study
Tue Jun 24, 11:33 AM ET
NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - People who are bicultural and speak two languages may unconsciously change their personality when they switch languages, according to a U.S. study.
Researchers David Luna from Baruch College and Torsten Ringberg and Laura A. Peracchio from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee studied groups of Hispanic women, all of whom were bilingual, but with varying degrees of cultural identification.
They found significant changes in self perception or "frame-shifting" in bicultural participants -- women who participate in both Latino and Anglo culture.
"Language can be a cue that activates different culture-specific frames," the researchers said in a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
While frame-shifting has been studied before, they said this research found that people who are bicultural switched frames more quickly and easily than people who are bilingual but living in one culture.
The researchers said the women classified themselves as more assertive when they spoke Spanish than when they spoke English.
"In the Spanish-language sessions, informants perceived females as more self-sufficient and extroverted," they said.
In one of the studies, a group of bilingual U.S. Hispanic women viewed advertisements that featured women in different scenarios. The participants saw the ads in one language - English or Spanish - and then, six months later, they viewed the same ads in the other language.
Their perceptions of themselves and of the women in the ads shifted depending on the language.
"One respondent, for example, saw an ad's main character as a risk-taking, independent woman in the Spanish version of the ad, but as a hopeless, lonely, confused woman in the English version," said the researchers.