People are less likely to trust people with an accent, according to a news study. Photo by Pixabay
Sept. 18 (UPI) -- People are less likely to trust the advice or directions of a person with a foreign accent.
According to social experiments conducted by researchers at McGill University, people tend to trust people from their own "in-group" -- people from a similar linguistic or cultural background.
However, researchers found people are more likely to suppress their bias if a person with a foreign accent delivers directions or advice in a confident, commanding tone.
"What this shows me is that, in future, if I want to be believed, it may be in my interest to adopt a very confident tone of voice in a whole range of situations," Xiaoming Jiang, a former post-doctoral fellow at McGill, said in a news release. "This is a finding that potentially has repercussions for people who speak with an accent when it comes to everything ranging from employment to education and the judicial process."
Jiang, now an associate professor at Tongji University, is one of the more than 2 billion people around the world who speak English as a second-language. Increasingly, native English speakers are engaging with -- living, working, socializing with -- non-native English speakers.
"As we make decisions about whether or not to trust people who are different from us we pay a lot of attention both to visual cues and to a person's voice," said McGill researcher Marc Pell. "Here, we wanted to better understand how we make trust-related decisions about other people based strictly on their speaking voice."
For the study, researchers had participants listen to short, neutral statements read in a variety of accents and tones. While participants listened and judged each reader's trustworthiness, their brain activity was measured using fMRI.
The imaging showed the superior parietal regions became activated when participants judged the trustworthiness of someone from their in-group -- someone without an accent. The brain's superior parietal regions help people draw inferences from past experience.
When participants listened to and judged the trustworthiness of someone from an out-group, the temporal regions of the brain became more involved. Temporal regions power auditory processing.
When judging members of out-groups, participants needed their temporal neurons to help them process the person's accent and tone.
Researchers shared their findings this week in the journal NeuroImage.