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Humans subconsciously 'mimic accents'

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People who interact with a person with a different accent subconsciously mimic their twang because they want to “empathise” with their conversation partner, psychologists claim.

American researchers have found human brains imitate the speech patterns of other people, even complete strangers, without meaning to.

They say a humans want to “bond” with others, even when a voice cannot be heard or, somewhat embarrassingly, even if another person is a foreigner.

Scientists from the University of California, Riverside, found the subconscious copying of an accent comes from an inbuilt urge of the brain to “empathise and affiliate”.

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That's really interesting. I've actually found myself in that position when I've been around friends from Russia, the UK and Israel. It really is subconscious and hard not to do.

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I was just talking to someone the other day about this very subject. I have a friend who lives in London but she grew up in the US. She has lived there for about 5 years now and she loves it there and she will never come back to the US! Although she lives there and has no other American around her she still has not been able to pick up the English accent. She wanted to know why. when speaking to some one with any accent after a while you will start useing that same accent in the conversation. Well now we know why we will start to use anothers accent but why would my friend not be able to use the English accent?

Thanks, Rocketgirl B)

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Posted (edited)

I had this same situation when I had a long conversation with a teenager from england. Eventually I felt the urge to use an english accent but a fought it. ONE phrase/word did have the twang to it by accident.

Edited by MySummerJob

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I've found this to be true as well. My parents are Welsh/English and I was brought up in Wales. My husband is Scottish and whenever I talk to someone from Wales I get told I have a Scottish accent.

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I've found this to be true as well. My parents are Welsh/English and I was brought up in Wales. My husband is Scottish and whenever I talk to someone from Wales I get told I have a Scottish accent.

I'm the complete opposite, despite never living outside of my region, people always ask where I'm from. When I reply "...Here." they always remark how I sound like I'm from Australia, New Zealand, or some other far off country.

Maybe I picked those accents up from TV shows or Movies? 'Cause I don't know anyone foreign IRL.

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When I a kid we used to spend two weeks with my cousins in Chicago and then they would spend two weeks here with us. Both of our mothers complained about the accents we had for a while after that.

Lately I've noticed more people using phrases from across the pond like "spot on". That implicates, to me anyway, that the international commity is getting smaller by communicating more on the internet.

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Posted (edited)

I don't think I've ever seen this occur in real life. I have a very southern accent, and alot of the people I talk to online(Using ventrilo) do not talk like me or vice versa. Also, I've never witnessed this on television or anywhere else for that matter.

Now of course, after living somewhere new for a while; if the local accent is different from your original tongue, you'll eventually begin to talk with said accent. But that takes time, and is more conditioning.

Edited by ShaunZero

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I've also found this to be true, especially after spending long periods of time with people who have accents. And it is hard not to do. I went overseas and spent alot of time with a brit and aussie and found myself not only using british words (like rubbish) but also with a slight accent. Last year I went overseas and spent time with 2 dutch and my girlfriend and I both started using really simplified english. When we were alone we still couldn't stop doing it. It gets really habitual.

You also find this alot on the internet when using voice chat. My Irish guildmates sound strictly American on WoW.

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Yeah i did this the other day at work i was talking to a lady from Alabama and then next thing i know i let the accent slip out and didnt even realize til after a couple words lol :w00t: Thought i was going crazy though i was like why the hell did i just do that lol

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Old news to me...I`ve been observing this since I was under 10 years old. When I was that age I went to Jamaica fairly often and every time I came back I would not only hear (in myself) the change in accent, but I`d find myself using a few of their expressions too (instead of saying "eh?" I'd say "huh?").

The most recent example I have is when I went to dominican republic like 5 years ago. Almost everyone else in the resort was from Ireland or the UK, so naturally when I got back to Montreal I was carrying this weird hybrid accent for at least a week.

I hear it in my friends too, when they go on vacation...I'm just surprised it's taken this long for the scientists to figure out :tu:

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very true, when i visist liverpool (my hometown) i always return home with a lot stronger scouse accent :tu:

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Yea me and my friend talked with a strong norhthern irish accent, my friend went to university in Scotland and lived there for a few years, he's now back in northern ireland and now talks with a Scottish accent all the time and it doesn't go away, I now find myself talking in a Scottish accent and using phrases like "cudni be" instead of couldn't be, it's really weird lol.

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I'm not surprised by that.....we are all actually capable of learning any language when we are babies..........obviously our environment and the people we interact with and the language we hear is what we learn. :)

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I do this, and it happens fairly quickly. I was born and raised in Texas, but my mom has lived up in Connecticut for about thirty years. My visits usually are around ten days long, and I notice I pick up a different accent even in that short amount of time. I don't have much of an accent anyway, at least not compared to other Texans I know, but I definitely notice the difference when I come home. I'm not sure if I'm picking up the accent from up there or just losing what little accent I have from down here.

Edited by MysticStrummer

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I don't think I've ever seen this occur in real life. I have a very southern accent, and alot of the people I talk to online(Using ventrilo) do not talk like me or vice versa. Also, I've never witnessed this on television or anywhere else for that matter.

Now of course, after living somewhere new for a while; if the local accent is different from your original tongue, you'll eventually begin to talk with said accent. But that takes time, and is more conditioning.

It's an empathetic thing. Guess you're just not too empathetic, no offense.

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As a Northern Englishman living in Australia I can confirm this also. I've been married 9 years and my wife is always imitating me by accident, she usually picks it up more when we are together but it happens everywhere, people often imitate me by accident as I have a pretty strong accent, I notice words that don't get used very much over here being used more when I'm around (like the word "poorly").

For some reason though I seem to be immune to it, I've not picked up any Australian twangs and people often comment that I'm 100% pure British.

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A parallel to this can be the fact that if for instance two people are talking and one of them change his posture the other one will do the same, if they agree on the subject discussed.

A bit of cold reading for you all. happy.gif

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I've never noticed myself doing this when talking to friends who have different accents from mine, but I do occasionally catch myself talking in different accents every so often, even though I've been living in the same area all my life.

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My native language is Afrikaans. I moved to Aussie in ~grade 5 and specifically recall having a very heavy accent.

It was very easy for me to pin point the aussie accent :P. After about a year here however I couldn't tell if I was speaking with an accent or not. I asked some mates and they said I was. This confused me immensely since I couldn't pin point the differences without recording myself.

Anyways around halfway through grade 7 I was told I just came across as an Aussie accent and all.

Anyways, I played an online multi player game with mates in America over Ventrillo (like Skype) skipped a lot of school since school was easy >.> :devil:

I went to work and a lady asked me if I was American via my accent.. :huh:

A similar thing happened after watching 6 seasons of high stakes poker over 2-3 weeks.. Got drunk and a dude told me I definitely had an American accent.. :unsure:

IN CONCLUSION! Rofl life story ^_^ ... I agree :P

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Thank goodness it's a subconscious thing....

I've noticed myself doing it and it just kinda happens. Sometimes I almost feel like I'm mocking the other person, but I'm not. I just can't help it.

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Yeah I've seen it happen myself. I have voice chatted with an Englishman for the past 10 years. He is from Newcastle upon Tyne (which is mere miles from Scotland) and his accent used to be extremely strong. After a few years in a game called Asheron's Call we moved to WoW. We use ventrillo and when we first started using it I had gotten used to his accent and could understand him, but no one else could understand a word the poor man said. I had to be his interpreter. lol Now after all these years he talks quite american when on Vent (and says he reverts back to full Geordie when talking with his mates, lol). And I find meself using terms (like meself) by accident quite often. lol

And btw I live in Nevada and he said I have a cute accent...I didn't know Nevadan's had an accent. lol

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I think in a British accent after watching Top Gear. :lol:

Top-Gear-Returns.jpg

Edited by Jerry Only

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Yeah I've seen it happen myself. I have voice chatted with an Englishman for the past 10 years. He is from Newcastle upon Tyne (which is mere miles from Scotland) and his accent used to be extremely strong. After a few years in a game called Asheron's Call we moved to WoW. We use ventrillo and when we first started using it I had gotten used to his accent and could understand him, but no one else could understand a word the poor man said. I had to be his interpreter. lol Now after all these years he talks quite american when on Vent (and says he reverts back to full Geordie when talking with his mates, lol). And I find meself using terms (like meself) by accident quite often. lol

And btw I live in Nevada and he said I have a cute accent...I didn't know Nevadan's had an accent. lol

Whey Aye Man! I lived not far from Newcastle and we share the same accent (kindof)

Eeeh man, ahm gannin te the booza

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Thats funny. I did not know it had actually been researched.

I had noticed that there is a big difference between the people you see who "hold on" to their own accents and those who tend to mimick other's accents.

Usually those who are more empathetic to the people around them will subcontiously start copying the other person's accent. The less empathetic a peson is, the less they copy others accents and tend to stick with their own reguardless of their surroundings. Just a pesonal observation.

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