Prior research suggests that bicultural individuals (i.e., individuals with 2 distinct sets of cultural values) shift the values they espouse depending on cues such as language. The authors examined whether the effects of language extend to a potentially less malleable domain, behavioral decisions, exploring the extent to which bilingual individuals shift the underlying strategies used to resolve choice problems. Although past research has explained language-induced shifts in terms of knowledge accessibility principles, the motivation to conform to observers' norms can also drive these shifts. This article focuses on shifts in the general strategy of avoiding losses rather than pursuing gains, which is more often exhibited by Chinese than by Westerners. Five studies of Hong Kong bicultural individuals found that language manipulation (Cantonese vs. English) increases tendencies to choose compromise options in a product decision task, endorse associated decision guidelines that advocate moderation as opposed to extreme paths, defer decision making in problems where it can be postponed, and endorse decision guidelines that advocate caution rather than decisive action. A motivational explanation of these effects was confirmed.

Donnel Briley, Michael Morris, and Itamar Simonson
Journal Article
Publication Date
Journal of Consumer Psychology

Full Citation

Briley, Donnel, Michael Morris, and Itamar Simonson
. “Cultural chameleons: Biculturals, conformity motives, and decision making.”
Journal of Consumer Psychology
, (January 01, 2005):