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Multilingualism and moral decision-making

Venue: Birkbeck Main Building

There is no doubt that speaking a second language (L2) is an asset as it allows communicating with people from other cultures and expressing the world with other words. However, using a language that is not one’s native language can affect cognitive processes related to various aspects of our everyday life. This is true for non-native speakers who process language in their L2, but also for native speakers who listened to non-native speech.

In this talk Dr Alice Foucart will present (electro-)physiological and behavioural data that show how language processing impacts different cognitive processes and the consequences on social interaction. Dr Foucart will first present a set of studies that reveal that processing foreign-accented speech affects sentence processing and the speaker’s overall perception, which can lead to discriminations. In a second part of the talk, Dr Foucart will present recent studies reporting the ‘foreign language effect’, which refers to the observation that people tend to be more rational when making decisions in a foreign language than in a native language. Overall, the talk will intend to demonstrate with empirical data that, although there may be some negative consequences, multilingualism has positive consequences on many aspects.


Alice Foucart’s research area is in psycholinguistics. Her work focuses particularly on language processing in first and second language and she also investigates how language influences other cognitive aspects such as decision making, emotion processing and social cognition. She conducts her empirical research using behavioural and (electro-)physiological methodologies such as eye-tracking and event-related brain potentials (ERPs).

She obtained her PhD in 2008 from the University of Edinburgh (UK) and Université de Provence (France) after completing a Master in Sciences of Language (Université de Provence, France, University of York, UK), and a BA in English (University of Lille, France). She worked as post-doctorate fellow in three UK institutions successively (Heriot-Watt University, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Bangor) and then joined the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Spain) before leading a Marie Sklodowska-Curie project at Ghent University (Belgium). She is now principal investigator of the research group of Applied Linguistics for Foreign Language Teaching (LAELE) in the Faculty of Languages and Education, and researcher of the Centre for Cognitive Science (C3) at Nebrija University.

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