Accents in speech hurt credibility: study

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foriegn_accentA thick non-English accent can hurt your credibility, a new University of Chicago study finds.

Speakers with a noticeable accent were seen as less credible than those with no accent, largely because Americans who are native English speakers find them harder to understand, the study found. The thicker the accent, the less credible they came across as.

The researchers asked Americans to listen to native and non-native speakers of English making simple statements and then to judge how truthful they were. To guard against prejudice, the listeners were told the information came from a prepared script and wasn't based on the speaker's own knowledge.

Even so, on a scale in which 10 was most truthful, native English speakers got a score of 7.5, people with mild accents a score of 6.95 and people with heavy accents a 6.84, according to a report on the study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

"Instead of perceiving the statements as more difficult to understand, they perceive them as less truthful," U. of C. researchers Shiri Lev-Ari and Boaz Keysar concluded.

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