Cognitive Neuroscience


Bilingualism: Language and Cognition




Formal publication: April 2024

Authors: Teitelbaum Dorfman, F., Kogan, B., Barttfeld, P., & García, A. M.

Abstract: Socio-cognitive research on bilinguals points to a moral foreign-language effect (MFLE), with more utilitarian choices (e.g., sacrificing someone to save more people) for moral dilemmas presented in the second language (L2) relative to the first language. Yet, inconsistent results highlight the influence of subject-level variables, including a critical underexplored factor: L2 proficiency (L2p). Here we provide a systematic review of 57 bilingualism studies on moral dilemmas, showing that L2p rarely modulates responses to impersonal dilemmas, but it does impact personal dilemmas (with MFLEs proving consistent at intermediate L2p levels but unsystematic at high L2p levels). We propose an empirico-theoretical framework to conceptualize such patterns, highlighting the impact of L2p on four affective mediating factors: mental imagery, inhibitory control, prosocial behavior and numerical processing. Finally, we outline core challenges for the field. These insights open new avenues at the crossing of bilingualism and social cognition research.