The second experiment was designed to see if participants could be less sensitive to a heavy accent if they were told they were being tested to see if accents undermine credibility. So the first participants were deceived into believing the experiment would test their knowledge. But the second group knew the real purpose was to determine "the effect of the difficulty of understanding speakers' speech on the likelihood that their statements would be believed."
If prejudice is the primary factor the results of both experiments should be the same, Lev-Ari said. But they weren't.
In the second experiment, speakers with a mild accent were rated almost exactly the same as speakers with no accent. But those with a heavy accent were judged considerably less truthful because they were harder to understand.
"If it was just about prejudice, there shouldn't be a reason for differences (between the two experiments,)" Lev-Ari said. Prejudice is deeply seated and not easily dispatched by the introduction of one new fact.
"The only thing that has changed is their awareness of the fact that if the accent is difficult to understand it might influence their judgment," she said. And it did. Mild accents didn't suffer, but heavy accents did, and that's because they were harder to understand, she said.
"Accents might reduce the credibility of non-native job seekers," the researchers conclude, so Igor probably should aspire to becoming something other than a television anchor since nobody can understand him. But he will probably have problems on many fronts, and not just because of prejudice, which will also be there.
"As we showed, such insidious impact of accent is even apparent when the non-native speaker is merely a messenger. Most likely, neither the native nor the non-native speakers are aware of this, making the difficulty of understanding accented speech an ever present reason for perceiving non-native speakers as less credible."
Incidentally, few of the participants in the two experiments could identify the country that the various accents came from, and that didn't surprise either of the researchers, both of whom are from Israel and have very mild accents.
"I know my accent is never correctly recognized, so I wasn't surprised that people couldn't recognize others," Lev-Ari said.
And one last thing. Can a giraffe go without water longer than a camel can? Yes. Bet you didn't know that.