INT 136PA Project Phase I Draft

For this project, I and my fellow classmates: Hailey Apolloni and Giselle Woods, explore the barriers in communication set by accent bias and masking to figure out why it can be so difficult to understand one another.


We believe that those with an accent and a mask will be harder to understand for those with the California accent. Those with a California accent will be more likely to tailor their speech to be more clearly understood by those with an accent. This will not be the case for when the Californian accent is working with another Californian accent. We also believe that those with their accent will downplay their accent to become more ‘Americanized’ as well as enunciate more with those that do not have their accent.


Due to Covid-19, those living in the United States have been required to wear a mask for most activities. This has become a continued norm in our society. We were wondering how this influences communication in society. Specifically wondering how those with accents that are non-California American accents are affected. Do they use more gestures and eye-contact during speech to clarify their speech? Do they ‘Americanize’ their accents to be better understood? How does a mask change their behaviors when it comes to communication? 

We also wondered how those without the accent change their speech and listening behaviors for those with an accent. Would they be more likely to ask clarifying questions? Do they move closer towards the person with an accent to better hear them? Or when they are speaking with somebody with a different accent, do they enunciate their speech more? Do they speak slower? We are hoping to answer these questions, or shed some light on the interaction, within this study.

Experimental Design:


California: participants born and raised in California. 

Undecided accents: hasn’t lived in the US longer than 10 to 15 years. 


Our participants will take around a 5 minute online survey that asks them questions about their residency within the US. In addition to our online survey, we will be interviewing our participants individually to attain a more detailed understanding of them as a whole as well as gain a more complete overview of the differences between the cultures they come from. 


We prepared a 2-3 minute long task for participants to complete. There will be one task done alone for both the California accent participant and the X accent participant to get a baseline. We then will pair participants as such:

Baseline task:

  1. California accent alone
  2. Undecided accent alone

Paired tasks: 

  1. California x California
  2. California x undecided accent
  3. California x new undecided accent

More to be added soon…