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


language, dialects, accents, communication, social preferences, halo effect, pitchfork effect, language exposure


Many studies suggest that young children prefer speakers who speak similarly to them. Children demonstrate social preferences for speakers of their own native language over speakers of a non-native language as well as for speakers of a familiar accent over speakers of an unfamiliar accent. Recent research suggests that young children will similarly show preference for speakers who use familiar dialect-specific vocabulary over speakers who use vocabulary specific to an unfamiliar dialect. The current study investigated potential motivations behind young children’s preferences for familiar dialect-specific vocabulary. Fifty participants ages fifty-one months to ninety-five months (Mage =72.6 months) viewed an animated video featuring two children. One child used American dialect labels for items displayed, and the other child used British dialect labels. Participants indicated which child they would rather play a game with (social preference), which child they would rather ask if they didn’t know the name of a novel object (selective trust), and rated each child on a three-point scale in domains of likability, niceness, intelligence, and helpfulness. Participants demonstrated social preference and selective trust for American dialect users over British dialect users. Participants rated American dialect users significantly more favorably in domains of likability, intelligence, and helpfulness. Interestingly, participant rating did not differ in the domain of niceness. Participants rated American dialect users more favorably than a midpoint value on all four domains; however, participants also rated British dialect users more favorably than a midpoint value in domains of likability, niceness, and intelligence, but not helpfulness. This evidence suggests that a halo effect may motivate preference for familiar dialects.