Foreign Accent Perception and Processing with EEG

Roanoke College, Salem, VA, 24153, USA

As technology continues to improve communication between cultures, foreign accents are becoming more common in everyday life and, therefore, more important to analyze. The objective of this study was to examine how a range of accents are perceived, and how that may relate to the brain’s electrical activity. Fourteen female participants from Roanoke College listened to twelve clips of different accents speaking English while their brain activity was measured using electroencephalography (EEG). There were six speakers with two audio clips each. Four of the six speakers were using English as a native language, while the other two speakers were non-native English speakers. Each participant heard a male and female American, Irish, and Saudi Arabian speaker. After each clip the participants were asked to rate the accent on a Likert scale for understanding, comfortability, trustworthiness, and likability. Electrodes were placed over the frontal lobe for a sufficient understanding of executive reactions to the accents, as well as over the parietal lobe to measure basic audition. Data was then analyzed through Fast Fourier Transformation (FFT) to find the frequency of the brain waves. Significant effects regarding how participants perceived the different accents based on survey data were found. It was found that participants rated females higher and enjoyed listening to the Irish accent most, but understood the American accent best and Saudi Arabian accent least. The results showed no significant findings for the EEG recordings. These results show that further research needs to be done, perhaps restructuring when participants are asked questions about the accent and creating a task during the audio clip to allow the participant to focus more on the actual content of the text.

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