Most attractive accents sound like us, study shows

Shereen Dindar
Contributing Writer
Shine On

Despite the commonly held belief that foreign accents are sexy, new research from the University of British Columbia suggests people actually prefer accents that sound similar to theirs.

While it's true that Canadians have positive biases about some foreign nationalities -- for example, we tend to think a person with a British accent is smarter -- for the most part, we are more attracted to people who sound like us, reports the National Post.

However, the new study shows that people are not huge fans of an accent similar to their own, yet different enough to distinguish it. The difference between a west coast and east coast dialect in North America is the perfect example.

The researchers suggest this is because we feel a stronger sense of kinship and community with those that sound similar to us. Only once an accent is drastically different from ours do we sometimes find it alluring.

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"Once you are outside of a certain range of familiarity, novel and exotic sounding voices might become more attractive," says lead researcher and linguistics professor Molly Babel. "We also have to keep in mind that we find some accents more preferable than others because of social stereotypes that are associated with them."

Babel notes that newcomers to Canada may face stigma for this reason.

“There’s a push and pull dance we do, where we want to fit in with our voice yet don’t want to act like mimics or copycats,” she says.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, also found key differences in voice preferences for men and women.

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Researchers asked a group of university-aged Californians who were born and raised in the U.S. to rate the attractiveness of 30 male and 30 female voices on a scale of one to nine.

Participants showed a preference for men that spoke with a shorter average word length, as well as men with a "larger" sounding voice.

They also preferred women's voices that sounded breathier rather than creakier. Babel says this is because the former is associated with youthfulness while the later is associated with maturity and ill health.

What are your thoughts on the findings of this study? Do you believe accents are strongly correlated to how attractive we find someone? Sound off in the comments below.