White Listeners’ Responses to “Sounding Black” And “Sounding White”: The Effects of Message Content on Judgments About Language1

Fern L. Johnson, Richard Buttny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

The effects of sounding black on white listeners’ perceptions of experiential and narrative content versus abstract and intellectual content were examined. Using the matched guise technique and 93 college student subjects, three hypotheses were tested: (1) Sounding black predisposes white listeners to respondmore negatively to a speaker than sounding white, regardless of content; (2) Sounding black elicits more negative responses from white listeners when message content is abstract than when it is experiential; (3) Sounding black predisposes white listeners to describe the speaker in stereotypic terms. In addition to the three hypotheses, one research question was also posed: do white listeners focus their perceptions differently depending on whether a speaker “sounds black” or “sounds white” and depending on whether message content is abstract or experiential? Free descriptions and the Speech Dialect Attitudinal Scale were completed by the subjects. Hypothesis 1 was not supported. Hypotheses 2 and 3 gained partial support. Results on perceptual focusing suggest that both stereotypic and egocentric filters shape listener responses. Limitations, future research, and bidialectalism are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-49
Number of pages17
JournalCommunication Monographs
Volume49
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1982
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics

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