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Metaphysics & Psychology

Humans subconsciously 'mimic accents'

August 8, 2010 | Comment icon 34 comments

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Psychologists claim that we subconsciously mimic the accent of someone we are speaking to.
The human brain has a habbit of imitating the speech patterns of other people without even meaning to in an effort to help bond and "empathise" with that person.
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”. Their findings, reported in the journal Attention, Perception and Psychophysics, concluded this happens when we cannot hear what is being said but are simply lip-reading.

Source: Telegraph | Comments (34)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #25 Posted by Kazahel 12 years ago
It is interesting how people mimic others. I think people mimic others much more than they realise and in more ways than just with accents.
Comment icon #26 Posted by Wyrdlight 12 years ago
I change my voice/accent all the time depending on who I am speaking too. I went to a rough school and have a fairly clipped "posh" voice, I stuck out like sore thumb, I learnt quickly to change my voice to suit those I was around so as not to stick out. So if i am speaking to somone with an East-end accent I will alter my voice to sound more "East-end", if meeting a new person, say a future employer or a docter/professional I will tone up my voice to sound posher, more of an "Oxoford" type voice. Around friends and family I use my normal voice. Its kind of sad i guess.... but I got so used to... [More]
Comment icon #27 Posted by BaneSilvermoon 12 years ago
I've lived in Kentucky for all thirty years of my life and have always been told by people in my area that I talk like a city boy, granted I am from Louisville, but I have far less accent than even the people in my city. On the other hand, it's about 50/50 when I talk to people from other places on whether or not they think I have an accent. And I pretty much never seem to adapt to accents around me. Be that from where I live or elsewhere. I do think I'm starting to gradually pick it up more the older I get though. And on the opposite end. I have a friend from Alberta Canada who I talk to on t... [More]
Comment icon #28 Posted by ~TheBigK~ 12 years ago
I think in a British accent after watching Top Gear. Hahaha. I totally do that after watching something with people who have a different accent. It's hard not to.
Comment icon #29 Posted by Desert Man 12 years ago
It's possible to adapt another accent or dialect in a different geographic environ, if you lived there long enough ...and it's a sign of cultural immersion into the new culture you're in. I'm a native Southern Californian my whole life, but I been told I sound Midwestern or from the Northeast U.S. and some words I seemingly picked up from Oklahoman and Southeastern relatives. "Ah ain't makin'et yup, y'all git mah drift".
Comment icon #30 Posted by electro13 12 years ago
So to me this means, as countries become more and more multi-cultural, people will start devaloping more of a 'world accent' as time goes by. Which is a good thing to bring people together.
Comment icon #31 Posted by oDaVinci 12 years ago
This is true, i have documented some instances of this I tested my friends, teachers, and family members. What i did was, without any warning, i would start to speak in a British accent. They would ALL soon do the same. They would laugh about it.. But it happened (:
Comment icon #32 Posted by C L Palmer 5 years ago
This must be what happened when Hillary Clinton quoted Langston Hughes!
Comment icon #33 Posted by Hammerclaw 5 years ago
I've always loved how the different accents and colloquialisms of English around the world add color and variety to the language. An accent is to be cherished not disparaged. To imitate one, whether accidentally or deliberately is often motivated by the conscious or unconscious desire to "fit in", be on the same wavelength and communicate more effectively. In America, the upwardly mobile often adopt the standard American English accent we hear on television from the various media outlets. I suppose that delightful non rhotic lisp of the British upper crust serves the same purpose, there.
Comment icon #34 Posted by ryanltzw 5 years ago
I think this falls into two aspects: 1) It's a subconscious effort in trying to mirror the person you're talking to build rapport and empathy and 2) an a**hole who barely spent a week abroad, comes back and tries to show off to his peers by speaking in a foreign accent from the country they were recently at.

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