Does Language Influence Our Propensity to Save?

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In Sight

Does my Chinese language subconsciously influence me to save more, avoid smoking, exercise more, and eat more healthily?

That seems to be the conclusion of economist Keith Chen of the Yale School of Management, in his recently published paper (and described in his much more viewer-friendly TED Talk).

Prof. Chen’s argument essentially runs as follows: certain languages, such as English and  Greek, oblige speakers to separate out present and future tense (« I will go to the store tomorrow »), while other languages, such as Chinese and German, prevent speakers from doing so (« 我明天去商店 », or, « I go to the store tomorrow »). Could this linguistic separation of present and future in certain languages lead speakers of that language to discount the future, thus reducing their propensity to save and prepare for the future? Since this is certainly not a question that can be answered using a randomized controlled trial, Prof. Chen goes…

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