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Perceptions 'affected by accent'

3 April 08 23:01 GMT

Accent could affect how intelligent people are thought to be, a new study suggests.

The study, which matched accents with perceived intelligence, found speaking in a Birmingham accent gives a worse impression than saying nothing at all.

Scientists at Bath Spa University asked 48 volunteers to compare accents.

Dr Lance Workman, who led the team of researchers, said that one of the reasons for doing the study "was to find out about stereotypes".

They compared the Yorkshire accent with those from Birmingham and with the clipped tone of what is known as Queen's English, or received pronunciation (RP), while looking at photos of female models.

They then repeated the experiment in silence, and while accents had no impact on the perception of beauty, it significantly affected the intelligence rating.

The silent test scored higher than the Birmingham "Brummie" accent, with the Yorkshire accent being rated the highest.

Dr Workman presented his findings at the British Psychological Society's annual meeting in Dublin.

He said: "Surveys have shown that a lot of people associate Birmingham with criminal activity, and they associate criminal activity with low intelligence.

"Can I just say that whenever I've been to Birmingham I've found people to be very bright and friendly.

"Thirty years ago 10% of the population went to university. If someone had RP you'd probably think they had gone to university.

"Today, 44% of young people go to university. I think there's been a shift in what we expect from somebody who is educated.

"There's been this change from elite education to mass education."

Dr Workman also said that his co-researcher on the study was a woman with a Birmingham accent who he regarded as being extremely intelligent.

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