The Reference Frame Effect: An Intergroup Perspective on Language Attitudes



Invoking self-categorization and social identity theories, this study predicted that ingroups would be evaluated more favorably than outgroups, but that ingroup membership would change as a function of reference frame. Using the matched-guise technique, moderate and broad American Southern English accented guises were presented to Californian listeners (N = 175). These were paired either with a Californian-accented (interregional reference frame) or Punjabi-accented English speaker (international reference frame). Listeners reported a stronger sense of connection with the Southern-accented guises, perceived their accents as more similar, and upgraded them on solidarity traits when reference frame was international (i.e., ingroup categorization) rather than interregional (i.e., outgroup categorization). Reference frame had no effect on status ratings. Implications of this reference frame effect are discussed.