Keep Calm and Learn the Language: Do Multilinguals Have Lower Intolerance of Uncertainty than Monolinguals?

AbstractThis paper presents the results of an observational study on the relationship between multilingualism and lower Intolerance of Uncertainty (IoU). A group of over two hundred multilingual and monolingual individuals filled in an online survey that contained items about one’s language profile, cross-cultural experience, and the Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale-12 (IUS-12) – a psychometrically-sound instrument to assess one’s vulnerability towards uncertain situations on an emotional, behavioral and cognitive level. We ask whether highly multilingual people are less likely to fear unknowns as a result of their exposure to linguistic and/or cultural uncertainty while learning foreign languages and/or staying abroad. The results show that an advanced knowledge of multiple languages and longer stays abroad correlate with lower aversion towards uncertain situations, thus, lower scores on the IUS-12. The study opens up new avenues for further investigation into how multilingualism and multiculturalism shape one’s cognition and might have positive effects on mental well-being.

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