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ESR7 Project

The emergence of language as a social group marker

Lead beneficiary: University Pompeu Fabra

Main supervisor: N. Sebastian Galles; ESR7 Committee: K. Plunkett


Humans are organized in social groups and we take into account who the others are in social interactions. The distinction between in- and out-group members may emerge very early in human ontogeny and can be triggered by language. Some studies in pre-verbal infants show a preference to play with objects, eat food and listen to melodies that were previously endorsed by a member of the same linguistic group compared to an out-group member; moreover, 14 month infants imitate more faithfully an unusual action introduced by a linguistic in-group member compared to a foreign speaker.


  • To investigate how language defines group membership in infancy and early childhood.

  • To address the emergence and early development of in-group selective learning. 

  • To assess the impact of dialectal variation in group membership and learning.

  • To investigate the previous questions in the context of multilingual infants.

Planned secondments:

In the 2nd year 6 months at the Center of Cognitive Development at the Central European University in Budapest to learn how to implement some social learning paradigms. The secondment will provide an exceptional opportunity to interact with researchers in one of the leading laboratories in the world in the field of social cognition.

ESR8 Project

The foreign language effect on decision making

Lead beneficiary: University Pompeu Fabra

Main supervisor: A. Garcia-Palacios ; ESR8 Committee: N. Sebastian-Galles


Although some recent studies have shown that people’s choices are affected by the language in which information is conveyed, the so-called foreign language effect in decision making, at present we do not know why, how, or when foreign language affects our decisions. This project assessed whether the use of a foreign language may affect our choices, judgments, and behaviour, may help promoting self-control and reducing temptation in financial and health decisions, and aid mental health treatments.


  • To explore the origin of the foreign language effect on decision making.

  • To assess the role of language context on temptation and intertemporal choices.

  • To assess whether foreign language context can aid mental treatments by promoting the adoption of emotion regulatory strategies.

  • To explore the role of emotional distancing in the presence of the foreign language effect.

  • To assess whether language context can be used as a nudge to promote better decisions.

Planned secondments:

In the 1st year a 6-month secondment at the PAS to develop the experimental protocol to implement foreign language as a tool when treating anxiety-related disorders. The ESR will also receive training in evidence-based mental health treatments, a training that can enhance the ESR’s future career within or outside the academia. In the 3rd year, 2 months with BC to receive hands-on experience in public engagement and research dissemination.

ESR9 Project

The flexibility of social categorization: How bilingual experience influences social information processing

Lead beneficiary: Jagiellonian University

Main supervisor: Z. Wodniecka; ESR9 Committee: M. Bukowski, J. Lupiáñez


This project explores social cognition of bilinguals and monolinguals and their ability to control stereotype manifestation. Preliminary evidence in the literature shows that bilinguals demonstrate more flexibility in switching between social categories (i.e. categorization material that has social significance by referring to people or groups).


  • To address one of the practical issues following migration crisis in Europe related to stereotype and prejudice control.

  • To explore a hypothesis that second language learning enhances efficacy of the use of social categories and is related to greater ease of processing when a re-categorization of a perceived target person is needed.

  • To develop an experimental paradigm to investigate ethnic/national stereotype control 

  • To compare outcomes for second language learners living in more (UK) and less (PL) migrant-present settings

  • To identify the role of internal factors such as individual ‘motivation to control prejudice’ (Devine) on processing of stereotypes

  • To identify the role of individual differences in cognitive abilities in mediating the putative relation between second language learning and stereotype control.

Planned secondments:

In the 1st year 2 months at the CIMCYC to develop the experimental paradigm, in the 2nd year 8 months at UREAD for data collection in second language learners and English monolinguals, to work at the Reading Refugee Support Group and to receive experience in public engagement and research dissemination at BMR.

organize the study on improving L2 in immigrant children and gain experience with immigrants in the health context. In the 3rd year 4 months at BC for experience in public engagement and dissemination.

Photo: Luca Prestia

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