Implicit bias and perception of accent

  • Lydia MacNair University of Victoria


This study explores our underlying, unconscious attitudes towards foreign accents. Italian and Mandarin accents were compared in order to determine whether there is a common preference amongst Western Canadian participants. Implicit bias was measured using an Implicit Association Test, in which participants associated each accent with positive words as quickly as possible and reaction times were recorded. A survey was also taken to examine participants’ conscious attitudes towards the accents and compare them with their implicit biases. The survey results showed no preference for one accent or the other, with overall averages of 2.63 for Mandarin accents and 2.65 for Italian accents. The results of the IAT revealed that implicitly, Italian accents were preferred, having an average reaction time of 1528.68ms while Mandarin accents had an average reaction time of 1657.02ms. Implicitly, 16 participants preferred Italian accents, while only 4 participants preferred Mandarin accents. The results of this study suggest an underlying preference for Italian accents over Mandarin accents in Western Canadian society.

Keywords: Implicit bias; sociophonetics; nonnative accents; Mandarin; Italian