The effects of perceived status and degree of accentedness on listeners' social judgments

Eugene Steinhart, Pace University


This study examined prejudicial attitudes toward Spanish-accented speakers, and subjects' willingness to change those attitudes by manipulating the status of the speakers. There were two accent conditions, low and high, and three status conditions, high, low and neutral. Attitudes were measured using a modified speech rating scale fashioned after Thakerar & Giles (1981). The scale included items for rating the speakers' status and style, and for making social judgments of the perceived competence and benevolence of the speakers. Six undergraduate classes of approximately twenty-three students each were assigned to one of six possible groupings for combination of accent condition and status condition. Each group heard a taped passage which was pre-tested for accent level, rate of speech, pitch, and enunciation after which they filled out the rating scale. A second rating scale and demographic questionnaire followed the status manipulation (or a neutral introduction for the neutral group) and second passage. It was hypothesized that the status manipulation would effect the social and rate of speech ratings in both high and low accent conditions. Subjects would be less willing to change ratings of a high accented speaker in a more positive direction, and more willing to change ratings in a more negative direction. A 3 x 2 x 2 experimental design using the three status conditions by accent condition by time of testing was used. Between subject variables were status and accent conditions, and time of testing was a within subjects variable. Results confirmed the internal controls for measuring the effectiveness of the status manipulation and the validity of the pre-test assertions. Status was found to significantly ($p<.001$) effect competency cluster ratings, but not benevolence cluster ratings. Accentedness of the speaker had no statistically significant effect. There were no significant effects for rate of speech ratings. The need to increase awareness of and sensitivity to stereotypical attitudes, and other implications for the educational community are discussed.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|Educational sociology

Recommended Citation

Steinhart, Eugene, "The effects of perceived status and degree of accentedness on listeners' social judgments" (1992). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9300152.



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