Accents Trump Skin Color

Written by Science Knowledge on 1:33 AM

Kids prefer friends whose speech sounds similar to their own, regardless of race

Children, like adults, use three visible cues—race, gender and age—to arrange their social world. They prefer to make friends with kids similar to them on these traits. New research shows that verbal accents may be equally important in guiding youngsters’ social decisions—in fact, accents may be even more important than race. Working at Harvard University, developmental psychologist Katherine D. Kinzler and her colleagues first showed American five-year-olds photographs of different children paired with audio clips of voices and asked which ones they preferred as a friend: a child who spoke English, one who spoke French, or one who spoke English with a French accent. Even though the subjects understood the French-accented English, they were almost four times more likely to choose the native English speaker as a friend.

Going one step further, Kinzler and her team showed that an accent is more meaningful than race in signifying whether someone belongs in your social group. Replicating previous research, they found that under silent conditions children chose as potential friends children of the same race. Yet when the potential friends spoke, white children preferred a black child speaking with a native accent over a white child who spoke English with a foreign accent. Why was accent more important than race? “Race, as a psychological category, may be relatively modern in terms of human evolution,” explains Kinzler, now at the University of Chicago. In prehistoric times, “a neighboring group might have sounded different even if they did not look different,” she says. Preference for our own race might have developed later, after the more ancient preference for our own accent. The next step is to see whether living in bilingual or multilingual countries might change this early inclination.

Source of Information : Scientific American Mind March-April 2010

Related Posts by Categories



  1. 0 comments: Responses to “ Accents Trump Skin Color ”


About Me

In its broadest sense, science (from the Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge") refers to any systematic knowledge or practice. In its more usual restricted sense, science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge based on scientific method, as well as to the organized body of knowledge gained through such research.

Fields of science are commonly classified along two major lines: natural sciences, which study natural phenomena (including biological life), and social sciences, which study human behavior and societies. These groupings are empirical sciences, which means the knowledge must be based on observable phenomena and capable of being experimented for its validity by other researchers working under the same conditions.


You are welcome to contact me and leave your comments in my Blog.

Science Knowledge

Want to subscribe?

Science Knowledge

Grab this Headline Animator

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner