Project «Linguistics and time preferences: The role of language in shaping intertemporal choices»

Recent evidence suggests a correlation between the encoding of time in a language and future-oriented behavior. However, the origins of this relationship remain unclear. We study whether this relationship is driven by a universal difference in discount rates across language groups, or rather due to differences in present-bias, that is, short-run discounting only. Using individual incentivized preference measures of French and German speakers - two languages that differ in their encoding of time - from a bilingual region of Switzerland, we find that French speakers are significantly more impatient than German speakers, but only if immediate payments are involved. When faced with a choice between two future payments, differences are less pronounced. Our evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that the grammatical association between the present and the future in a language affects present-bias.

under review, additional experimental sessions required by the referees planned in April 2020 


  • Holger, Herz, Professor of Economics, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
  • Martin, Huber, Professor of Economics, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
  • Tjaša, Maillard-Bjedov, Associate Professor, Swiss Distance University Institute, Switzerland
  • Svitlana, Tyahlo, PhD student, University of Fribourg, Switzerland


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