Institute of Art Design + Technology
Dún Laoghaire

Niamh Blennerhassett 

BSc [Hons] Applied Psychology

Niamh Blennerhassett is a final year student in IADT studying a BSc (Hons) Applied Psychology from Stillorgan, Dublin. Niamh chose the practice path, with interests in cultivating an inclusive and empathetic environment in an increasingly multicultural world. Volunteering has inspired her passions greatly, coming into contact with individuals struggling with a lack of support and no sense of community. Niamh plans to continue gaining experience through work, travels and a masters in the years to come. Her ultimate goal is to pursue and promote positive psychology and self-compassion that branches through the self into the broader community.

Project Description

The Foreign Language Effect suggests that language can influence moral decision-making processes. Despite a depth of research, findings are still divided on the nature and complexities of the FLE. This research adopted a Rapid Structured Literature Review to examine the current studies findings and methodologies. Five common themes were identified from ten separate studies. The review shows that the theory of dual processes helps explain the complexity of the Foreign Language Effect. However, the study is limited by its small sample size and time constraints. Positively, the review reveals patterns across the current research and highlights the inconsistencies, along with potential avenues for future research. A specific recommendation for future studies involve an interdisciplinary research collaboration including psychology and neuroscience for more in depth and robust findings.

Project Objectives

The objective of this study was to uncover the influential factors contributing to the varying results across studies regarding the FLE. By exploring previous studies to recognise common factors. The RSLR method was essential in creating the themes and sub-themes, to combine the key factors, and remove the previously identified ineffective factors such as; the age when a foreign language is learnt.. The RSLR was equally crucial considering appealing some of the studies limitations such as the small sample size as a result of the limited time frame. The studies main focus was to amalgamate studies across different sample participants; with Dutch, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic languages to address the root cause of inconsistencies in FLE research.

Project Outcomes

Fortunately, the results provided a more comprehensive understanding of the FLE as it can apply across cultures and continents although not without exception. Understanding and applying the dual process theory is essential to uncover the mechanisms of the FLE. Evidently, the study failed to comprehensively explore the FLE beyond certain cultural boundaries, given the current research’s heavy reliance on European languages and the English language being predominantly used in all the studies as either the native or foreign language. However, using the dual process theory to understand the FLE provided some astounding insights to collective behaviour across cultures as many studies revealed similar results. The higher the language fluency, the lower the FLE, giving insights into the underlying cognitive and emotional mechanisms for the FLE. Participants with more experience speaking a foreign language tend to make the same choices in both languages, unlike individuals who are less immersed, indicating that experience in a foreign language influences individuals socially. While the research revealed profound insights into the cognitive and social influences behind ;anguag, it is clear that future research should focus on a more comprehensive view of culture, beyond major languages and european-centric research. Additionally, it is clear that FLE requires more than psychological research but a collaboration between neuroscience and relative fields for more robust findings.

Thesis Title

Exploring the Foreign Language Effect: A Rapid Structured Literature Review