Strategic Decision-Making in a Global Context: The Comprehension Effect of Foreign Language Use on Cooperation

Diemo Urbig*, Katrin Muehlfeld, Vivien D. Procher, Arjen van Witteloostuijn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


With increasing globalization comes an increasing number of people communicating in foreign languages when making strategic decisions. We develop a theoretical model in which comprehension constitutes an essential mediator for the effects of using a foreign language on cooperation in global business contexts. To resolve conceptual ambiguities, we separate information processing leading to comprehension from decision-making employing the previously comprehended information. For the first step, we demonstrate how using a foreign language can, depending on individuals’ foreign language proficiencies, trigger both lower and higher comprehension. Variation in comprehension is, as a second step and independent of its cause, negatively associated with individuals’ tendencies to cooperate. Our experimental results support our theorizing. This study provides new micro-foundations for strategic decision-making and discusses unreliable cooperation as a potentially destructive managerial group dynamic within foreign language contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-385
JournalManagement International Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2020


  • Foreign language use
  • Information comprehension
  • International management
  • Judgment and decision-making
  • Strategic decision-making


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