386 Accents & Friendships

Research by Paquette-Smith, Melissa, Buckler, Helen, White, Katherine S., Choi, Jiyoun, Johnson, Elizabeth K. (2019).

Written by Shannon Cantalupo, B.S. 

Is it basic human nature to prefer to socialize with people with whom we are familiar? If children have experience with others using different languages, will they more likely choose to play with those with unfamiliar accents? 

UCLA Psychologist Paquette-Smith and international colleagues studied how everyday accent exposure for 5 to 6-year-old children influences their choice of interacting with others.

Would Toronto children who are more familiar with accents more likely choose children with foreign accents they’ve not heard before?  Children saw a picture of eight schoolchildren and decided whom they wanted as a friend. They listened to a child with a more familiar British accent or a less familiar Korean accent. 

Results? Accents of the speaker did influence 5-6 yr. old children’s preferences. Canadian children, despite their high exposure to multiple accents, preferred British (closer to their own accents) compared to Korean (a less familiar accent).

Older children, after more experience working effectively with others with different accents, do choose them. However, 5-yr-old children just figuring out the world, may not yet feel as comfortable with a child with a foreign accent and may be less likely to reach out to those with different accents.


Paquette-Smith, M., Buckler, H., White, K. S., Choi, J., Johnson, E. K. (2019). The effect of accent exposure on children’s sociolinguistic evaluation of peers. Developmental Psychology, 55(4), 809 – 822.

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