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Ms. Nelda Ilomelo John

Ms. Nelda Ilomelo John

Nelda has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from New York University Abu Dhabi. She is interested in examining the roots and products of stereotypical representations of minoritized groups, especially African societies. Her work centres on social cognition at the intersections across gender, race, and socioeconomic statuses, and their role in maintaining or enhancing prejudiced systems. Some of her upcoming projects are on the role of self-stereotyping in the endorsement of gender roles in Ghana, xenocentrism in Tanzanian education, and African representation in Hollywood media. In her research, Nelda emphasizes reducing the gap in research that pertains to the lives of non-WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) populations.

Costs of foreign accents and benefits of accent switching

Speakers of English as an additional language (EAL) face challenges when assimilating into international settings because of accent discrimination. This is particularly true in the present digital age where multiple forms of multimedia relying on audio linguistic elements, such as podcasts and audiobooks are ever-expanding. Here, we report two studies conducted to investigate the issue of accent discrimination. First, we surveyed 32 Africans at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) on their experiences using the English language in an international institution. Multiple Factor Analysis revealed two main dimensions capturing 25% of the variance and interpreted as X and Y. Dimension X represented factual information about participants’ use of English while dimension Y captured subjective attitudes about the relationship between participants’ native English accents and Mainstream American accents. In study two, a speaker evaluation experiment was conducted where 165 British participants listened to audio recordings of different voices with six different accents and rated each one across six categories: intelligence, confidence, educatedness, powerfulness, attractiveness, and sociability. Crucially, the study included the manipulation of an accent switch – one voice was presented once with a Ghanaian English accent and emulating what is considered a more prestigious Mainstream American accent. The Mainstream American accent was rated more positively than the Ghanaian accent in most questions, while the Ghanaian emulating an American accent received ratings that were either intermediate or as high as the American. These findings are relevant in the discussion of what factors to keep in mind as we assimilate audio communication into multicultural environments. Research shows that accent cues are more potent than skin colour cues, so understanding the role that accents play in, say, employment, media, and sales is extremely crucial. As personal and face-to-face dialogue is replaced by digital communication, psychologists and other social researchers need to examine ways in which prejudice and stereotyping may be carried over in human social cognition. This research has presented one way in which accent segregation has slipped into digital dialogue and other researchers may benefit from engaging in this conversation.

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