Who said what ... and how? : on the influence of pronunciation on social categorization
In the social world, one not only sees people, one also hears them speaking. Features of the language (e.g., the accent) convey important information about the speaker. In the context of this dissertation, three projects were designed to test the impact of accents on the perception, categorisation and evaluation of persons. The first project investigated the influence of accent presence on the job interview outcome. It was found that targets speaking with a German dialect accent were highly discriminated against whereas those speaking with a French accent were evaluated as positively as standard German speakers. The second project investigated social categorization based on ethnicity by varying the presentation modality (i.e., only visual, only auditory or both visual and auditory). The results showed that not only the look (visual cues) but also the accent (auditory cues) of a person plays an important role in how a given person is categorized. Moreover ethnicity seemed to be presented most effectively through auditory cues (i.e., accent). The third project examined the outcome of cross categorization based on gender and ethnicity while varying the presentation modality. More precisely, we varied presentation of gender and ethnicity through either only auditory, or only visual, or auditory and visual cues together. Results suggested that gender, though being a very salient and important category, is not always the determining factor for social categorization. And again, ethnicity was conveyed greatly through auditory presentation whereas gender was equally well presented with visual and auditory cues. Overall, all three projects showed that in psychological processes (e.g., social perception and categorization) as well as in everyday life, accents (i.e., language) play a central role.
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