Language May Influence Preferences

BEERSHEBA, Israel, July 15 (UPI) — The language people use may influence how a person thinks about others, Israeli and Welsh researchers suggest.

Researchers Shai Danziger of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba, Israel, and Robert Ward of Bangor University in North Wales say they took advantage of tensions between Arabs and Israelis to design their experiment.


The study, published in Psychological Science, found Israeli Arabs who speak both Arabic and Hebrew fluently found it easier to associate Arab names with “good” trait words and Jewish names with “bad” trait words. This effect was stronger when the test was taken in Arabic and weaker when the test was taken in Hebrew.

“The language we speak can change the way we think about other people,” Ward says in a statement.

Danziger, Ward and colleagues based their experiment on the Implicit Association Test used to test bias. They asked Arab students attending Hebrew-speaking university to categorize words flashed on the computer screen as quickly as possible by pressing two keys. The words described positive and negative traits and Arab names like Ahmed and Samir and Jewish names like Avi and Ronen.

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