Arts & Culture

Fair dinkum, speak good Australian? You’re trustworthy

Fair crack of the whip mate, what’s the John Dory with that? If you speak good ‘Aussie’, you’re more likely to be thought of as trustworthy, in this country at least. But forget using the word mate, it won’t help you.

That’s the finding of a new study published today in Human Ethology by researchers at The University of Western Australia, which found people were more likely to trust someone who spoke in the same accent.

On the flipside, if you speak with an accent, your trustworthiness rating is likely to be lower. Tu quoi?

Study author Dr Cyril Grueter from UWA’s School of Human Sciences said his research team wanted to know if Aussies discriminated against speakers with accents other than Australian English.

They were also keen to address why Australians often infused their communications with the salutation ‘mate’ and whether use of the cultural idiom strengthened bonds between people.

“We were specifically interested in the situation in Australia where you can hear all sorts of accents and it’s customary to use the term ‘mate’ to address people,” Dr Grueter said.

“Accent is a pertinent social marker and can shape group preferences; non-native speakers are often perceived less positively than native speakers in domains such as integrity and solidarity.”

Dr Grueter said researchers conducted a psychological experiment where they recorded six speeches by three male speakers (portrayed as bungee jump instructors) that differed in two ways.

The first was accent – with Australian English, British English and English with a foreign (Swedish) accent used and the second was the inclusion of the word ‘mate’. Listeners then rated each speech in terms of trustworthiness.

“Our results show that Australian listeners regard speakers with their own accent as having higher trustworthiness,” Dr Grueter revealed.

“Interestingly, both British and Swedish English speakers received lower trustworthiness ratings; so the boundary isn’t drawn between native speakers and non-native speakers but between Australian English speakers and other English speakers.

“And, contrary to our prediction, using the word ‘mate’ did not improve trustworthiness ratings.”

Dr Grueter said it’s worth mentioning that the results were based on a single experiment and needed further investigation.

“Nevertheless, our finding that accented speakers receive lower trustworthiness ratings from locals emphasise the need to take accent-based discrimination and prejudice seriously,” he said.