Can your five-year-old help in research to understand attitudes to regional accents?

  • Date

    Mon 7 Mar 22

Photo of woman with young child on her lap who wears an EEG cap

A new research project at the University of Essex exploring how judgements about different regional accents develop in childhood is looking for participants to take part.

The research team from the Department of Languages and Linguistics is looking for children aged five whose first and main language is English. The child and their parent are invited to come on to the University of Essex Colchester Campus to help understand how five-year-old children feel about different accents.

In this study, Accent the Positive, which takes place in the Linguistics Laboratory, the children will play a game on the computer, while information from brain waves is measured by a fancy cap.

Participants will receive a small prize at the end of the short session and the families will be compensated with a gift voucher for their time and parking expenses.

Dr Ella Jeffries, Lecturer in Department of Languages and Linguistics, who is leading the research, said: “The project explores how young children in early primary school tell the difference between accents used in different parts of the UK, and how they feel about those accents. It can be difficult for a child to express those thoughts directly, so we use different methods to discover their implicit association with different accents. This includes studying their behaviour and looking directly at their brain responses.

“People are often judged based on the way that they speak. In particular, having an Essex accent can encourage certain stereotypes about a speaker and this can lead to negative consequences based on accent discrimination.

“An important question to address is how these attitudes develop and whether children pick up on these stereotypes from a young age.

“Overall, this study aims to inform changes in social and educational policy in order to promote awareness of accent discrimination.”

If you are interested in taking part or would like any more information, please contact the research team at who are looking for participants to the end of April.

For more information, visit the project webpage.