Thursday, 4 September 2008

Two Languages Two Minds! Cultural Frame Switching!



Do you behave differently in different surroundings, especially when you are speaking in different languages?


Are you aware of CFS or cultural frame switching?


What is Cultural Frame Switching?

Cultural frame switching refers to the phenomenon where bicultural individuals shift values and attributions in the presence of culture-relevant stimuli.


I notice that I am a very different person while I speak Italian compared to when I converse in Finnish. Many bilingual individuals speak about their similar experiences with speaking different languages. For example, in one context they are more extravert and open, while they are more subdued and conscientious in another. They say that they feel like a different person depending on which language they are speaking. A new study lends credence to their claims.

Nairán Ramírez-Esparza, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, charted the personality traits of 225 Spanish/English bilingual subjects in both the U.S. and Mexico as they responded to questions presented in each language. 


The five dimensions along which difference were noticed among bilinguals are: 
  1. Extraversion
  2. Agreeableness
  3. Conscientiousness
  4. Neuroticism
  5. Openness. 

Ramírez-Esparza and her colleagues found that when using English in USA, the bilinguals were more extraverted, agreeable and conscientious than when using Spanish. The differences in neuroticism were not significant.

Previously researchers have shown before that bicultural individuals can assume different roles depending on environmental cues. But the new results indicate that character itself can morph.  
“To show that changes in personality—albeit modest ones—can be triggered by something as subtle as the language you’re speaking suggests that personality is more malleable than is widely expected,” Ramírez-Esparza explains.
When bilinguals answer questions in their native language the values and attitudes associated with that language condition their answers. When they respond to a questionnaire in their second language, norms and values associated with that language affect their responses.

Though switching tongues will not turn a bookworm into a party animal, but the variances are noticeable nonetheless.


The number of bilingual and bicultural people in the world is significant. 

Does having the ability to function in different personality modes give you skill and competence advantages as an employee or as a community member? 

Does it make you a better team member or a better boss?

Photo source:: http://www.morguefile.com/ Photographers:  taliesin and Keith Richardson

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