Foreign Accents Make Statements Less Trustworthy

Due to the principles of processing fluency (also known as cognitive fluency, discussed here many times before), we know that information that is easier to process is perceived to be–among other features–more familiar, pleasant, truthful and less risky.

A recent study has shown that this is also true for foreign accents: statements spoken by non-native speakers are perceived to be less trustworthy, even if their accent is mild:

Non-native speech is harder to understand than native speech. We demonstrate that this “processing difficulty” causes non-native speakers to sound less credible. People judged trivia statements such as “Ants don’t sleep” as less true when spoken by a non-native than a native speaker. When people were made aware of the source of their difficulty they were able to correct when the accent was mild but not when it was heavy. This effect was not due to stereotypes of prejudice against foreigners because it occurred even though speakers were merely reciting statements provided by a native speaker. Such reduction of credibility may have an insidious impact on millions of people, who routinely communicate in a language which is not their native tongue.

via Mind Hacks



One response to “Foreign Accents Make Statements Less Trustworthy”

  1. Ian

    It’s funny, I’m an American born to a woman from Antigua and my father is Irish, my stepfather’s background is from Norway and I grew up everywhere. I’ve been told by most people that my English is accent neutral and hard to place but have found that some fellow Americans find my speech snobby. I have been living in Germany for close to 19 years and my accent when speaking German is extremely “American” and for some reason or another can’t lose.

    But and here’s the funny part, most Germans are amazed at my fluency and large vocabulary level. It has helped me indirectly in my chosen profession ( IT-related) and I’m taken quite seriously and has even been advantageous for me. As an American I’m perceived to be flexible and my “checkered past — always on the move” has not been viewed negatively but thanks to my language skills I come across as a “knowledge” person.