Bilingual children also, like monolingual children, prefer to interact with those who speak their mother tongue with a native accent rather than with peers with a foreign accent.
The study co-authored by psychology professors Krista Byers-Heinlein and Diane Poulin-Dubois expands on earlier research showing that children who speak one language prefer to interact with those who share their native accent.
Byers-Heinlein and Poulin-Dubois initially thought that bilingual children would prove more open-minded than their unilingual peers. The results, however, show that they too prefer exchanges with "accent-free" speakers.
As part of the study, 44 Montreal-area children between the ages of five and six were shown two faces on a computer screen. Audio recordings were played for each face; one read a phrase in the child's native accent, while another read the same phrase in a foreign accent.
Researchers deliberately chose a foreign accent that was unfamiliar to any of the children and varied associations between faces and voices.
Child participants were asked to point to the faces they would prefer to have as a friend. Most chose faces that corresponded with their native accent.
This study has implications for parents. Since children lack the self-awareness to remind themselves that accent is a superficial measure of character, parents should be more direct in teaching their kids about accents.
The study has been published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.