Investigating the relationship between comprehensibility and social evaluation
The processing fluency hypothesis proposes that listeners’ perceived difficulty processing the speech of L2 speakers (called comprehensibility/processing fluency) leads them to downgrade those speakers socially. In this paper, we investigate this relationship, focusing on context-specificity. L1-English listeners provided comprehensibility and social evaluation ratings of L1-Korean speakers speaking English, while an orthographic depiction of the speech either appeared alongside the audio or did not, a manipulation aiming to affect comprehensibility. Varying orthography between subjects, Experiment 1 found that orthography resulted in greater comprehensibility, but not more positive social evaluations. Experiment 2 manipulated orthography within subjects, varying context: orthography trials were presented first or last. Comprehensibility and social evaluation ratings were related only when orthography was first, suggesting a conditional, asymmetrical relationship where listeners more readily downgrade than upgrade the same speaker when orthography changes. Our results highlight the context-dependent nature of these constructs, limiting the generalizability of the processing fluency hypothesis.
Keywords: social evaluation, status, solidarity, comprehensibility, processing fluency
Published online: 10 September 2020
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