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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Do I need to repeat myself? Getting to the root of the Other Accent Effect


Listeners struggle to identify talkers with a different accent than their own, a phenomenon known as the Other Accent Effect (OAE). But for reasons that are not well understood, the OAE is not consistently observed in all studies. Comprehension-related processing demands offer one explanation, such that other-accented talkers who are more easily understood are also easier to recognize. Here, we test this hypothesis using a forensic-style voice line-up. We examine native English-speaking adults’ ability to recognize talkers from four accent groups, manipulating comprehension-related processing demands by presenting listeners with predictable sentences and subtitles (low-demand condition), or variable sentences without subtitles (high-demand condition). As predicted, the OAE was only observed for talkers with non-native accents. But crucially, our comprehension manipulation had no impact on talker recognition accuracy of any accent type. We conclude that comprehension ease is likely not a key factor driving the OAE. Other possible explanations are discussed.

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