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Thursday, October 6, 2016

How Unconscious Bias Is Affecting Our Ability To Listen

Vivian Giang
The Fast Company
Originally published September 8, 2016

Here is an excerpt:

Meghan Sumner, an associate professor of linguistics at Stanford University, stumbled into the unconscious bias realm after years of investigating how listeners extract information from voices, and how the pieces of information are stored in our memory. Study after study, she found that we all listen differently based on where we’re from and our feelings toward different accents. It’s not a conscious choice, but the result of social biases that form unconscious stereotyping which then influences that way we listen.

"It’s not always what someone said, it’s also how they said it," Sumner tells Fast Company. "How we view people socially from their voice, influences how we attend to them, how we listen to them."

For instance, in one experiment, Sumner found that the "average American listener" preferred a "Southern Standard British English" voice rather than one who had a New York City accent, even if both voices are saying the same words. Consequently, the listener will remember more of what the English speaker says and will deem them as smarter. All of this is impacted by the stereotypes that we have of British people and New Yorkers.

The article is here.