Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Psychology

First Advisor

Joseph D. Wellman

Second Advisor

Carrie V. Smith

Third Advisor

Stephanie E. Miller

Relational Format



In a globalized world, individuals are more likely to travel or migrate between countries; thus, we may encounter more individuals who speak with an accent that is unfamiliar. Accents can serve as a social cue that conveys information about the speakers’ background and national origin. It is a particularly important perceptual cue in the workplace because accented individuals are perceived to be lower in status and competence. The current study attempted to replicate prior findings on accents; disentangle race and accent; and extend the literature on accent by examining the target’s perceived prototypicality of Americanness. Across three studies (N = 645), a diverse array of targets varying by race (i.e., White, Black, Asian, and Latino) and accent (i.e., European, African, Asian, and Hispanic accents) were examined. In Study 1 and 2, accented speakers were perceived as less prototypical of Americans, and subsequently, was more negatively rated on several outcomes. In Study 1, the indirect effect of accent on outcomes through prototypicality was only significant for White and Black targets; Asian target’s Americanness prototypicality was not affected by their accent. Unexpectedly, compared to Study 1 where no consistent main effect of race emerged, racial minorities received more favorable ratings in Study 2 and 3. This may be due to a shift in race-based evaluations in the US due to the current racial awareness movements. Nevertheless, prototypicality of Americanness was found to be a consistent mediator between accent and outcome variables even when the racial minority was favored, suggesting that shifts in race-based evaluation has not extended to accents. In conclusion, accented speakers may still face barriers in the hiring process in part due to other individuals’ perception that they are less American.

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