aCCENT TrumpS raCE iN GuiDiNG ChilDrEN'S SOCial prEfErENCES

A series of experiments investigated the effect of speakers’ language, accent, and race on children’s social preferences. When presented with photographs and voice recordings of novel children, 5-year-old children chose to be friends with native speakers of their native language rather than foreign-language or foreign-accented speakers. These preferences were not exclusively due to the intelligibility of the speech, as children found the accented speech to be comprehensible, and did not make social distinctions between foreign-accented and foreign-language speakers. Finally, children chose same-race children as friends when the target children were silent, but they chose other-race children with a native accent when accent was pitted against race. A control experiment provided evidence that children’s privileging of accent over race was not due to the relative familiarity of each dimension. The results, discussed in an evolutionary framework, suggest that children preferentially evaluate others along dimensions that distinguished social groups in prehistoric human societies.
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