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Guillermo Saldivar
Research Project
November 27, 2011

How Accents Affect Perception of Intelligence and Physical Attractiveness of British and Standard-American-English Accented Speakers

Many Americans view British accents as more sophisticated, cultured and prestigious than theirs, or at least from the accents that we al hear on television, in movies and on the radio. Andthis is because, even though there actually are a vast variety of different British accents, Americans are most familiar with the proper accents. As described in different articles on the subject, one can conclude that It may be alienation from the homeland, or insecurity and just wanting to fit in when adopting a British accent and wanting to be perceived as a classy and intelligent individual.But can accents make a difference in someones perception of intelligence?
Brian Henderson, an American investment banker who has lived in London for three years, says he wouldn't think of switching. "The last thing you want to do is... be pretentious and pick up a British accent," he says. "It's so obvious." Eventhough there are Americans who do resist, others think different,like writer and National Book Award winner Andrew Solomon, a native New Yorker. He said that he attempted to mimic a British accent even before he moved to Britain in the 1980s to go to Cambridge. "I find that it's very useful to have lived in Britain because it gives me a good excuse to have the same affected accent I had in the first place," he says. "I think I had some notion that it was grand andaristocratic and as I was not going to distinguish myself athletically, I thought I would distinguish myself with my enunciation"...
But even Solomon says there's no going back. Even though at times he has thought to himself, "This really is silly. I should really sound more American," he says, "it would take such an enormous self-conscious effort to sound profoundly American again, then thatseems affected." Besides, he adds, his speech isn't nearly as affected as Mr Grossman's. Says Solomon: "His accent is so ridiculous, it makes me sound like a hardy stalwart from Brooklyn." (From the Wall Street Journal, September 30 www.wsj.com)
Review of Literature
Scientists at Bath Spa University in the UK, asked 48 volunteers to compare accents. Dr Lance Workman, who led the team ofresearchers, said that one of the reasons for doing the study "was to find out about stereotypes". They compared the Yorkshire accent with those from Birmingham and with the clipped tone of what is known as Queen's English, or received pronunciation (RP), while looking at photos of female models. Dr Workman presented his findings at the British Psychological Society's annual meeting in Dublin. He said:"Surveys have shown that a lot of people associate Birmingham with criminal activity, and they associate criminal activity with low intelligence. "Can I just say that whenever I've been to Birmingham I've found people to be very bright and friendly. "Thirty years ago 10% of the population went to university. If someone had RP you'd probably think they had gone to university. "Today, 44% of youngpeople go to university. I think there's been a shift in what we expect from somebody who is educated. "There's been this change from elite education to mass education." Dr Workman also said that his co-researcher on the study was a woman with a Birmingham accent who he regarded as being extremely intelligent.
Even though for the most part we find that people with British accents are perceived asmore intelligent and sophisticated, I found a study that was done in November 13th of the current year which test results show different. The Stanford University revealed that the British accent is no longer considered a positive trait for attracting a sexual partner.
In a comprehensive new research study conducted jointly by the Department of Linguistics and the Department of Psychology at...
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