Tag Archives: messages

“I just don’t trust you with that accent”: Non-native speakers and the fluency effect

By Erica Zaiser

The other day I was at a pub quiz and a question had been asked which I didn’t know the answer to. While discussing possible answers, one team member said what she thought was the right answer. It just didn’t sound believable to me. Then another team member said the exact same thing and it suddenly sounded like it was probably the right answer. Now, there are lots of reasons why that might happen. I might just have been convinced by two team members voicing the same opinion. Or maybe the second team member simply sounded more confident in her answer, which led to me placing my confidence in her. Or, it occurred to me, it may have been because the first team member was not a native English speaker and the second was.

In an interesting recent set of studies researchers found that when people hear information they are less likely to believe it when the speaker has a non-native accent. According to the researchers, this isn’t just because of prejudice, as one might assume. It’s actually to do with the fluency effect. The ease at which a message is processed is assumed to be indicative of how truthful the message is. In their studies, even when people heard messages which were originally from a native speaker and simply being passed on by the foreign speaker, people still were less likely to trust the message than when it was said directly by a native speaker.

In studies looking at children, researchers found that children were more likely to endorse actions done by a native speaker than a foreign speaker. Although that research wasn’t specifically looking at the fluency effect, it’s quiet possible that it plays a role in guiding children’s choices in selecting to trust information.

The worst part is that I had read this article just before the quiz, so this process was fresh in my mind and it still caught me up. So, for those non-native English speakers out there who are wondering why nobody believes things they say… you may want to put on your best native English accent and try repeating it. Some of us just can’t seem to override the fluency effect.

Read more: Children’s selective trust in native accented speakers.

Read more: BPS Research Digest Blog- Speakers with a foreign accent are perceived as less credible.

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The Tories and persuasion

The recent Conservative pre-election poster campaign ‘I’ve never voted Tory before…’ provides an interesting example of the three variables that interact in the persuasion process. That is, the communicator (source), the communication (message) and the audience (receiver) (Duck, Hogg & Terry, 2000).

Showing Ian the mechanic from Congleton in the poster immediately tells us that the target audience is men who are manual workers. The slogan is ‘I’ve never voted Tory before…’ also tells us that this cohort does not typically vote Tory. So how are the Tories attempting to persuade this group of non-traditional Tory voters?

Social psychologists have found that people are more likely to be influenced by communicators who are attractive (Kiesler & Kiesler, 1969) good communicators (Miller et al., 1976) and by peers and others who are similar (Triandis, 1971). Arguably Ian is attractive, similar to the target audience and by the written words, he communicates well. These variables on their own however, are unlikely to be persuasive enough to change the attitude of the target audience without a strong message.

Allyn & Festinger, (1961) suggest that simple messages are more effective than complex ones. The message being communicated by the poster can be read as – The Tories are the party to sort out the economy and therefore provide work. What is also interesting is how fear can be used to as a tool to persuade (Leventhal et al., 1965). Implied also in the message here is that not voting Tory risks leaving the economy in a mess and threatening jobs. The effectiveness of such subtle forms of persuasion however, will be measured in the ballot box.

Ian from Congleton’s story

Conservative Party billboards hit again by online spoofers

Persuasion

Persuasive arguments theory