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Title: Implicit cognition and the social evaluation of speech
Author: Robertson, Duncan
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2015
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For the past three decades, psychological research has repeatedly shown that it is not always necessary for us to be conscious of events in order to perceive them, a phenomenon referred to as implicit cognition (Underwood & Bright 1996). Although this has been the subject of much research in the disciplines of psychology and social psychology, sociolinguists have only recently begun to examine how implicit cognition functions with regards to how we perceive speech (Campbell-Kibler 2012). Consistent with social psychology research on implicit responses to visually-derived social information (Greenwald et al 1998; Karpinski & Hilton 2001), recent sociolinguistic research suggests that listeners make differing conscious and unconscious social evaluations upon hearing different regional and foreign-accented speech varieties (Kristiansen 2009; Pantos & Perkins 2013), and that this is at least partly driven by socially-marked phonetic variation (Campbell-Kibler 2012, 2013). While previous research has investigated this phenomenon in relation to different regional or international varieties of English, the current study investigates the conscious and unconscious associations listeners make towards different social accents in Glasgow. This was achieved over three experiments by adapting an established psycholinguistic eye tracking methodology for sociolinguistic research. The first experiment (N=32) was conducted without eye tracking, relying on pencil and paper responses. Participants were tasked with choosing between on-screen ‘working-class’ and ‘middle-class’ target images (determined via a separate norming task) of brand logos and objects while recordings of different speakers uttering words semantically related to both images were heard. Non-significant trends were found in the data, with participants more likely to choose ‘working-class’ brand logos when a working-class speaker was heard and ‘middle-class’ logos when a middle-class speaker was heard. A second experiment (N=42) recorded listener eye movements in real time towards the same experimental stimuli, finding listeners to have been significantly (p < .05) more likely to fixate upon ‘working-class’ brand logos when hearing a working-class speaker than when hearing a middle-class speaker. Listeners’ verbal choices of brand logos showed no significant effect of speaker heard, showing a divergence between the on-line and off-line responses made towards speakers. Conversely, the speaker heard was found to have had a significant (p < .05) effect on the images of objects verbally chosen by listeners, but no effect on fixations made towards objects. A third experiment (N=54) investigated listener fixations towards brand logos while hearing words containing different socially-marked phonetic variants. Socially-marked phonetic realisations of CAT, post-vocalic/post-consonantal /l/, and non-prevocalic /r/ were all found to have elicited significant (p < .05) effects on listener fixation behaviour, with response times ranging from 300-700ms. A supplemental subjective reaction test (N=60) found participants to have evaluated middle-class Glaswegian speakers significantly (p < .05) more favourably in terms of Zahn & Hopper’s (1985) status attributes than working-class Glaswegian speakers, in line with the findings of previous language attitude studies (Preston 1999; Zahn & Hopper 1985; Kristiansen 2001). Overall, the results indicate that speech varieties with varying levels of perceived social status elicit differing conscious and unconscious social evaluations in listeners, and that socially-marked phonetic variation plays a role in this.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology ; P Philology. Linguistics ; PE English