Bilingual children’s social preferences hinge on accent

Jasmine M. DeJesus, Hyesung G. Hwang, Jocelyn B. Dautel, Katherine D. Kinzler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
312 Downloads (Pure)


Past research finds that monolingual and bilingual children prefer native speakers to individuals who speak in unfamiliar foreign languages or accents. Do children in bilingual contexts socially distinguish among familiar languages and accents and, if so, how do their social preferences based on language and accent compare? The present studies tested whether 5- to 7-year-old children in bilingual contexts demonstrate social preferences among the languages and accents that are present in their social environments. We compared children’s preferences based on language (i.e., English versus their other native language) and their preferences based on accent (i.e., English with a native accent versus English with a non-native, yet familiar, accent). In Experiment 1, children attending a French immersion school demonstrated no preference between English and French speakers, but preferred American-accented English to French-accented English. In Experiment 2, bilingual Korean-American children demonstrated no preference between English speakers and Korean speakers, but preferred American-accented English to Korean-accented English. Across studies, bilingual children’s preferences based on accent (i.e., American-accented English over French- or Korean-accented English) was not related to their own language dominance. These results suggest that children from diverse linguistic backgrounds demonstrate social preferences for native-accented speakers. Implications for understanding the potential relation between social reasoning and language acquisition are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-191
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Early online date18 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • Bilingualism
  • Cognitive development
  • language


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