Children’s selective trust in native-accented speakers


Katherine D. Kinzler, Department of Psychology, University of Chicago, 5848 S. University Ave., Chicago, IL 60637, USA; e-mail:


Across two experiments, preschool-aged children demonstrated selective learning of non-linguistic information from native-accented rather than foreign-accented speakers. In Experiment 1, children saw videos of a native- and a foreign-accented speaker of English who each spoke for 10 seconds, and then silently demonstrated different functions with novel objects. Children selectively endorsed the silent object function provided by the native-accented speaker. In Experiment 2, children again endorsed the native-accented over the foreign-accented speaker, even though both informants previously spoke only in nonsense speech. Thus, young children demonstrate selective trust in native-accented speakers even when neither informant’s speech relays meaningful semantic content, and the information that both informants provide is non-linguistic. We propose that children orient towards members of their native community to guide their early cultural learning.