How accent and gender influence perceptions of competence and warmth in the medical profession
Previous research has shown that we evaluate social categories differently based on the two fundamental dimensions of competence and warmth. Findings indicate that doctors, men and standard accents are perceived as more competent, while nurses, women and regional accents are perceived as warmer. In a short experiment manipulating gender (man; woman), occupation (doctor; nurse) and accent (Standard British English; regional accent), participants rated the targets on perceived competence, warmth and status. The main results showed that doctors were rated as more competent providing they spoke using Standard British English, and warmer, as long as they spoke with a regional accent. This poses a potential problem, as doctors need to be perceived as competent in their diagnoses and treatment decisions, but also warm in their communication of important and sensitive information. The implications of these findings are discussed in order to highlight the importance of using multiple social categories to represent the complexity of everyday interactions.
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