My accent is leaking out:
Illusion of transparency in intergroup relations
Everyday interaction requires that people anticipate how others see them. Those appraisals tend to be egocentrically biased, because people are focused on their own internal states and overestimate how salient they are to others. This phenomenon, called illusion of transparency, can drastically impair the quality of social relations. The present research investigates whether people who speak with a foreign accent exhibit an illusion of transparency (Study 1) and whether this egocentric bias is related to foreigners’ propensity to avoid contact with natives (Study 2). In Study 1, Belgian students took part in a study about communications and were randomly assigned to the role of communicator or receiver. The communicator read loudly, in front of the receiver, two tongue twisters in English. Then, they estimated how much their accent was leaking out and how much their message was clear to the receiver. Their answers were compared to the receiver’s evaluation of accent and clarity. The results showed that communicators overestimated the transparency of their accent, while underestimating the clarity of their message. In Study 2, foreign students took part in a survey about life in Belgium. They answered questions regarding the perceived transparency of their accent, the perceived stigmatization, their self-esteem and their avoidant behavior with Belgians. The results showed that perceived transparency predicted the avoidant behavior (even when controlling for self-esteem), a relation mediated by the perceived stigmatization. Overall, those results suggest that the illusion of transparency might partially explain the conflict-relations between foreigners and natives.
Authors affiliation: Claudia Toma (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium) & Vincent Yzerbyt (Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium)