Interplay of Accent and Appearance in Society's Reactions to Immigrants
According to ethnolinguistic identity theory, language and accent are important social markers. However, most studies in social psychology have used photographs of faces, names, or other labels of people omitting auditory information. In two lines of research we studied how combinations of accents and looks influence evaluations of such people.
In the first line of research with pre-selected stimuli, people speaking with a standard German accent were evaluated better than those speaking with a Turkish accent. Moreover, we expected that incongruent targets would violate participants’ expectations leading to more extreme evaluations. Confirming the prediction of positively violated expectations job candidates were evaluated the best when having foreign looks but speaking standard German. However, there was no difference between evaluation of both Turkish-accented targets.
The goal of the second line of research was to examine the phenomena found in the first line of research in a more realistic setting. We studied levels of trust, eventual discrimination, and competence ascriptions indicated by participants with only German origins towards participants with immigrant and mixed origins. The results showed the influence of ethnicity of the partner on decisions made. However, by which channel (visual, auditory, or both) the person was presented did not play a big role for decisions. German participants discriminated people with Turkish origins by perceiving them as least competent and sharing goods with them to a lower extent than with native Germans. However, Turkish-origins partners were not trusted less than German partners. Partners with Indian/Pakistani origins were perceived as more trustworthy and competent than others. It seems that in Germany there might be positive stereotypes about this specific group as being both competent and trustworthy.
The results show importance of accents and stereotypes associated with them in evaluations of others. They also contrast two methods: a well-controlled laboratory experiment with an economic experiment with real people and real decisions. I hope for a lively discussion of the results of both lines of research!