What influenced the Chicago accent

It is better to refrain from talking during job interviews - why dialects and accents are not always so well received

It is better to refrain from talking during job interviews - why dialects and accents do not always go down so well

Author: Marcel Schmitt

Do you speak dialect? Or would you say that you don't speak a dialect, but that your pronunciation is shaped by the region in which you grew up? If so, there are certain moments when you try to speak German as "clean" as possible so as not to attract negative attention. Findings from social psychological research can only encourage you to adapt your language to such an extent in important situations.

So far, the negative effects of dialects and accents on the assessment of the personality of the speaker have been examined. In particular, it is assumed that hearing accents or dialects can trigger stereotypes in the recipient, which leave the person speaking with an accent in a negative light (for example, a lower level of education). The accent-speaking person could also be subconsciously accused of not making enough effort to speak “normally”. Both could explain the results of a study at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena: Test subjects heard excerpts from a fictitious application interview for a job in middle management. They either heard an applicant with a Berlin, Saxon or Bavarian accent or without a regional accent and rated her / him on the basis of competence, social skills and professional suitability. The applicant's answers were chosen in such a way that they indicated that the person had high levels of these characteristics in all conditions. Nevertheless, applicants with an accent were rated as less suitable for the position than applicants without an accent.

A study by the University of Chicago examined how credibly US test subjects rated English speakers with a medium or strong foreign accent compared to native English speakers. The test subjects heard a total of 45 recorded trivial statements such as "ants never sleep" and stated after each statement how credible they thought the statement was. 15 statements each came from native speakers, people with a medium accent and people with a strong accent. Which of the 45 statements came from which person differed from test person to test person; In addition, the test subjects knew that the statements were given by the study director. The result of the study: The test subjects found the statements of the native speakers to be more credible than those of the people with an accent. Does that mean that people generally believe foreigners less than native speakers? The authors suspect that their findings are less prejudice against the speakers than psychological processes in language processing. Language with an accent is more difficult to process than language without an accent. It is already known from previous research that statements that are linguistically easier to process (because they contain rhymes, for example) are perceived as more credible than statements that are equivalent in meaning and that are not so easy to process. Accordingly, people would subconsciously incorrectly interpret the more difficult processing as a lower credibility of the statements. Similarly, spoken messages without an accent should appear more credible than statements with an accent because they are processed more fluently. After the test subjects were told in a further experiment, before hearing the statements, that comprehension difficulties can influence their credibility, speakers with a medium accent appeared to the test subjects to be just as credible as speakers without an accent. The test subjects corrected their assessment of credibility, so to speak, because they were aware of a possible misinterpretation. However, speakers with a strong accent continued to be believed less than native speakers or speakers with an accent - with a strong accent there seem to be other reasons why these people are less believed.

Whether because of prejudice or because of difficulties in understanding: When it comes down to it, it is best to try to hide your accent. Otherwise, the problem might not be what you say, but rather how you say it.


Lev-Ari, S. & Keysar, B. (2010). Why don't we believe non-native speakers? The influence of accent on credibility. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 1093-1096.

Rakić, T., Steffens, M. C. & Mummendey, A. (2011). When it matters how you pronounce it: The influence of regional accents on job interview outcome. British Journal of Psychology, 102, 868-883.