I hear, therefore I perceive
Effects of speech accent on perception of physicians
People sometimes assume that a person who speaks with a foreign accent possesses negative traits and personality characteristics. The purpose of this study is to test if doctors who speak with a foreign accent are perceived as less competent than doctors who speak with a standard accent. We asked both Canadian and Chinese Canadian undergraduates to rate the competence of a doctor with either a standard Canadian accent or a Chinese accent. The doctor was delivering either good or bad news about the patient’s cholesterol levels or cancer. Previous research has shown that when reminded of death, participants favour in-group members (Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 1991). We therefore predicted that the Chinese-accented doctor is more likely to be judged positively by Chinese Canadian participants when given bad news about cancer. Similarly, the standard-accented doctor is more likely to be favourably perceived by Canadian participants in the same condition. The initial results suggest that, as predicted, the accent affects participants’ judgments of the doctors’ competence.
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