Below, you'll find two articles that show how an accent will affect a listener. If you want to be more easily understood as well as appear more trustworthy, you'd better speak like the native speakers that you're talking to.
Listeners' brains respond more to native accent speakers; Imaging study suggests accents are subtle 'insider' or 'outsider' signal to the brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 17, 2010
ScienceDaily (Nov. 16, 2010) — The brains of Scots responded differently when they listened to speakers with Scottish accents than to speakers with American or British accents, a new study has found. Understanding how our brains respond to other accents may explain one way in which people have an unconscious bias against outsiders.
The research was presented at Neuroscience 2010, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, held in San Diego.
"Many positive and negative social attributes are inferred from accents, and it's important to find the underlying cognitive mechanisms of how people perceive them," said lead author Patricia Bestelmeyer, PhD. "Accents affect perceptions of competence or trustworthiness, important attributes for salesmen and jobseekers alike."
Research conducted at the University of Glasgow suggests that people process words spoken with their own accent more quickly and effortlessly than other accents. In the study, 20 Scots listened to recordings of nine female speakers (three American, three British, and three Scottish) while their brain activity was measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The authors suspected that brain activity in an area associated with accent processing would decrease as accented words were repeated and the brain became accustomed to them. However, they found this occurred only when the Scots listened to American or British accents, and not to Scottish accents, suggesting the listeners had to adapt to outsiders' accents, but not their own.
"The pattern of neural activity differed strikingly in response to their own specific accent compared with other English accents," Bestelmeyer said. "The initial results suggest that such vocal samples somehow reflect group membership or social identity, so that 'in-group' voices are processed differently from the 'out-group.'"
Foreign accents make speakers seem less truthful to listeners, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 17, 2010,
ScienceDaily (July 20, 2010) — A foreign accent undermines a person's credibility in ways that the speaker and the listener don't consciously realize, new research at the University of Chicago shows.
Because an accent makes a person harder to understand, listeners are less likely to find what the person says as truthful, researchers found. The problem of credibility increases with the severity of the accent.
"The results have important implications for how people perceive non-native speakers of a language, particularly as mobility increases in the modern world, leading millions of people to be non-native speakers of the language they use daily," said Boaz Keysar, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago and an expert on communication.
"Accent might reduce the credibility of non-native job seekers, eyewitnesses, reporters or people taking calls in foreign call centers," said Shiri Lev-Ari, lead author of "Why Don't We Believe Non-native Speakers? The Influence of Accent on Credibility," written with Keysar and published in the current issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Levi-Ari is a post-doctoral researcher at the University whose work focuses on the interactions between native and non-native speakers.
To test the impact of accent on credibility, American participants were asked to judge the truthfulness of trivia statements by native or non-native speakers of English, such as, "A giraffe can go without water longer than a camel can."
Simple prejudice could affect ratings of truthfulness, so the researchers tried to minimize that effect by telling participants the information in the statements was prepared for the speakers, and was not based on the speakers' own knowledge.
Despite knowing the speakers were reciting from a script, the participants judged as less truthful the statements coming from people with foreign accents. On a truthfulness scale prepared for the experiment, the participants gave native speakers a score of 7.5, people with mild accents a score of 6.95 and people with heavy accents a score of 6.84.
"The accent makes it harder for people to understand what the non-native speaker is saying," Keysar said. "They misattribute the difficulty of understanding the speech to the truthfulness of the statements."
In a second experiment, researchers tested whether awareness reduces the impact of accent on perceived truthfulness. Researchers told participants that they were being tested to see if accents undermine credibility.
That experiment was conducted with identical recorded statements, but with different results. While participants rated statements with mild accent just as truthful as statements by native speakers, they rated heavily accented statements as less truthful, Lev-Ari said.
Accent is one of the factors that influences people's perception of foreigners in a society, Keysar pointed out. But its insidious impact on credibility is something researchers had not previously known, he added.