The development of accent-based friendship preferences: Age and language exposure matter

AbstractPrevious research has shown that children exhibit language-based social biases, preferring speakers of their locally dominant accent over foreign language or foreign-accented speakers. Even when regularly exposed to multiple languages or speakers with non-local accents, school-aged children nevertheless display strong language biases, preferring to be friends with native speakers over non-native speakers. The present study revisited this issue, examining whether routine exposure to additional languages and/or non-local accents influences language-based friend preferences. Three- to 5-year-old children (N = 183) growing up in a large, multicultural, North American City with at least 70% English exposure were presented with pairs of children—one speaking native-accented English and the other speaking foreign-accented English—and were asked to choose whom they wanted to be friends with. While accent exposure did not predict children’s preference, there was a significant effect of language exposure, such that greater experience with multiple languages reduced biases for native-accented speakers.

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