Dragojevic, M., & Giles, H. I don’t like you because you’re hard to understand: the role of processing fluency in the language attitudes process. Top Paper in the Social Cognition & Communication Division of the National Communication Association, Las Vegas, November, 2015.
Two experiments examined the effects of processing fluency – i.e., the ease or difficulty with which speech is processed – on language attitudes toward foreign- and native-accented speech. Participants listened to an audio recording of a story read in either a Standard American English (SAE) or Punjabi-English (PE) accent. They heard the recording either free of noise or mixed with background white noise of various intensity levels. Listeners attributed more solidarity (but equal status) to the SAE than PE accent. Compared to quieter listening conditions, noisier conditions reduced processing fluency, elicited a more negative affective reaction, and resulted in more negative language attitudes. Processing fluency and affect mediated the effects of noise on language attitudes. These findings provide compelling evidence for an additional explanatory mechanism of language attitudes by demonstrating that more negative attitudes toward a given accent can be triggered simply by the difficulty associated with processing speech in that accent.