Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Advisor

McLennan, Conor

Subject Headings



A significant amount of the research conducted in the area of foreign-accented speech has examined the influence that intelligibility, comprehensibility, and strength of accent have on the perception of foreign-accented speech. Factors such as speaking rate, signal-to-noise ratio, number of talkers, familiarity with the foreign-accent and, most relevant to the present study, cognitive load all play a role in how accented speech is perceived. In the current study, we explored the inverse of this relationship. We hypothesized that degree of cognitive load would affect participants’ accent ratings. The purpose of this research was to evaluate two competing hypotheses. According to a difficulty-based account, increases in cognitive load should lead to increased accent ratings, such that both native and non-native accents are rated stronger. According to an alternative resource-based account, increases in cognitive load should push accent ratings toward more neutral ratings, such that native accents are rated stronger and non-native accents are rated weaker, as there will be fewer available resources to attend to the accent-rating task. Results showed that cognitive load led to significantly weaker ratings of the foreign-accented speakers, as predicted by the alternative resource-based account. However, the influence of cognitive load only emerged in a high cognitive load condition, and cognitive load had no significant effects on the native-accented speakers. In addition to a number of potential practical implications for accented speakers, our results have important theoretical implications for the perception of foreign-accented speech and for the relationships between language and accent perception.

Included in

Psychology Commons