The impact of British accents on perceptions of eyewitness statements
Keywords:accent, eyewitness, Accent Prestige Theory, favourability
The current study looked at the impact of British regional accents on evaluations of eyewitness testimony in criminal trials. Ninety participants were randomly presented with one of three video recordings of eyewitness testimony manipulated to be representative of Received Pronunciation (RP), Multicultural London English (MLE) or Birmingham accents. The impact of the accent was measured through eyewitness (a) accuracy, (b) credibility, (c) deception, (d) prestige, and (e) trial outcome (defendant guilt and sentence). RP was rated more favourably than MLE on accuracy, credibility and prestige. Accuracy and prestige were significant with RP rated more highly than a Birmingham accent. RP appears to be viewed more favourably than the MLE and Birmingham accents although the witness’s accents did not affect ratings of defendant guilt. Taken together, these findings show a preference for eyewitnesses to have RP speech over some regional accents.
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