Thursday, April 11, 2013

Language and Habits

It always intrigues me when science comes to a conclusion that confirms other teachings.  As far back as I know, positive thinking advocates have always recommended putting affirmations in the present tense … I AM trim, healthy and energetic … rather than I WILL be trim, healthy and energetic.

It seemed to make sense but I never understood the reasoning behind it until I read about a study done by M. Keith Chen, Yale University, School of Management and Cowles Foundation.  In this study, he proposes that languages with a strong separation of present and future tense create a mindset that causes people to be less likely to save money, exercise regularly, and eat healthily.  

Languages such as English, Czech, Russian, Persian, Turkish and Georgian separate the future from the present with verb tenses … I will go verses I go. Other languages such as German indicate the future with context … It rains tomorrow.  These languages seem to make the future feel more similar to the present.  Therefore, people treat the future more like the present … they save money today instead of putting it off until tomorrow.

Chen's study sparked conflict within the linguistic community and still hasn't received rigorous academic review.   However, it is interesting to contemplate how the language we speak may affect our attitude and actions.

More info:


  1. Today is important and this moment is more important, because it is fleeting.

  2. Now that's intriguing. As a child, I learned french and then German -- was fluent in all three for many years and found that I often switched between them. I also felt the act of learning three languages at once adversely affected my common sense. There was always another way to say or name something. A table was not just a table, it was a Tisch or a Table (with an accent). Fascinating

    And... I've missed you. I'm back! :)