TUESDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- People with a foreign
accent are perceived as less truthful by listeners because an
accent makes a person harder to understand, a new study
American researchers asked study participants to judge the
truthfulness of trivia statements -- such as, "A giraffe can go
without water longer than a camel can" -- by native and non-native
speakers of English.
Even though they knew the speakers were reading from script, the
participants judged people with foreign accents to be less
truthful. And, the heavier the accent, the lower the score. On a
truthfulness scale created for the study, native English speakers
scored 7.5, people with mild accents scored 6.95, and people with
heavy accents scored 6.84.
"The accent makes it harder for people to understand what the non-native speaker is saying. They misattribute the difficulty of understanding the speech to the truthfulness of the statements," Boaz Keysar, a professor of psychology and an expert on communication at the University of Chicago, said in a university news release.
The study appears in the current issue of the
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
"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," Keysar said.
For example, an accent may affect the credibility of non-native
job seekers, eyewitnesses, reporters, or people taking calls in
foreign call centers, the study suggested.
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