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Health Commun. 2019 Mar 5:1-5. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2019.1584779. [Epub ahead of print]

A Doctor's Foreign Accent Affects Perceptions of Competence.

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a Department of Psychology , University of Alberta.


Many doctors work or train in foreign countries and speak with a foreign accent. People sometimes assume that a person who speaks with a foreign accent possesses negative traits and personality characteristics. The purpose of this study is to test if doctors who speak with a foreign accent are perceived as less competent than doctors who speak with a standard accent. Both Caucasian Canadian and Chinese Canadian undergraduates rated the competence of a doctor speaking English with either a standard Canadian accent or a Chinese accent. The doctor was delivering either good or bad news about the patient's cholesterol levels or cancer. Previous research has shown that when reminded of death, participants favor in-group members. We found that the Chinese-accented doctor's competence was judged more negatively than the standard Canadian accented doctor by all participants. Both doctors were deemed less competent when delivering bad news than good news. These results suggest that foreign-accented doctors face biases about their competence from their patients.

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