New research has found the Essex accent makes people appear less intelligent to others.

The University of Essex carried out a survey to determine how accents can lead to prejudice.

It found working-class people were judged to be less intelligent, friendly and trustworthy than middle-class people – something that was also highlighted by people speaking in an Essex or south London accent.

A total of 194 young people from South East England were played 10-second clips of other young people from the region reading aloud the same sentence.

Those listening to the clips didn’t know anything about the backgrounds of the people they were listening to.

For each person they heard, the participants were asked to make judgements about how friendly, intelligent and trustworthy they thought the person sounded.

Dr Amanda Cole, who organised the research, also found working class people also deemed the working-class accent to be less intelligent.

People from ethnic minority backgrounds were also deemed to be less intelligent than white people solely based on their accents, the research found.

Dr Cole said: “We are all diverse and we need diversity in accents. No-one should feel that they have to forsake their accent to get along better in life. “In England we all feel deep in our gut that there is a correct way of speaking English because of standard language ideologies which have been centuries in the making.

2It is no coincidence that the accent which we think of as being neutral and correct is that which is most often spoken by the social and political elite.

“We live in a vicious cycle in which the most privileged speak with the most esteemed accent and so are judged as the most competent and intelligent which helps them maintain their privilege.

“This way of thinking is so pervasive that it goes completely unchallenged.”

Dr Cole says her research findings are part of the first step towards challenging the concept that there is a correct way of speaking.

Her research, Disambiguating language attitudes held towards socio-demographic groups and geographic areas in South East England, is to be published in the Journal of Linguistic Geography published by Cambridge University Press.