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Description: Prior research has shown that language structure – specifically the form of verb tense in that language – can predict savings behaviors among speakers of different languages, consistent with some forms of the Whorfian hypothesis, that language shapes thought. To test the role of language in financial decision-making, we investigate the effect of manipulating verb tense (within a single language) on intertemporal tradeoffs. We find that verb tense can significantly shift choices between options, due to tense-based inferences about timing. However, the spontaneous use of verb tense when making choices occurs only in the complete absence of other timing cues and is eliminated when even ambiguous or non-diagnostic time cues are present, even if prompted timing inferences persist. We test between multiple competing accounts for how verb tense impacts timing inferences but not choices, and find evidence for a cue-based account, in which the presence of other cues blocks the use of verb tense in making intertemporal decisions.

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