Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)

Degree Level



Psychological Science


Douglas Behrend

Committee Member

Ana Bridges

Second Committee Member

William Levine


children, cooperation, in-group bias, language, native accent bias, social preference


In recent years, several studies have shown that 5- and 6-year-old children make social judgments based on accent, consistently displaying a social preference for individuals who speak with a native accent. One theory hypothesizes that this preference to favor individuals who speak like us stems from our evolutionary history, during which accent and other language variations would have been strong, salient cues to group membership, and thus, cues to ones likelihood of cooperative behavior. The current study aimed to test this theory by determining if 5- and 6-year-old children use accent to make judgments about an individual’s cooperative potential. Participants completed three tasks that were designed to measure cooperative potential, a social preference task, and a resource allocation task, designed to measure the participants’ cooperative behaviors. Contrary to the hypotheses, on two of the cooperative potential tasks, participants did not choose the regional accented speakers as being more likely to cooperate with them. The participants did, however, display a preference for the regional accented speakers on the third cooperative potential task, which involved determining with whom to collaborate and share earned resources. Also contrary to the hypotheses, participants did not display a social preference for the regional accented speakers, nor did they allocate more resources to the regional accented speakers compared to the foreign accented speakers. These results indicate that children may use accent as a cue for cooperative potential in some situations, but not others, and call into question the robustness of children’s preference for native-accented speakers.