“Given historic economic inequality, accurate perception of social class cues, even if that accuracy is only minimally better than random chance, may be especially critical in brief interactions where early impressions crystallize,” they write.
These findings, they emphasize, highlight how important it is for companies to look inward at their hiring practices if they want to promote diversity and combat biases in the hiring process. They recommend either standardizing interviews or avoiding interviews entirely, though they warn that bias could still slip in in both cases.
“One alternative approach highlighted by the challenges identified in this work is the proactive identification of lower-status identities, based in class or race, as a deliberate tool for promoting diversity in job candidates,” the team writes.
In other words, perhaps the best way to create more diverse workplaces and help deliver on the promise of the American Dream is to intentionally seek job candidates who are different from oneself.
Economic inequality is at its highest point on record and is linked to poorer health and well-being across countries. The forces that perpetuate inequality continue to be studied, and here we examine how a person’s position within the economic hierarchy, their social class, is accurately perceived and reproduced by mundane patterns embedded in brief speech. Studies 1 through 4 examined the extent that people accurately perceive social class based on brief speech patterns. We find that brief speech spoken out of context is sufficient to allow respondents to discern the social class of speakers at levels above chance accuracy, that adherence to both digital and subjective standards for English is associated with higher perceived and actual social class of speakers, and that pronunciation cues in speech communicate social class over and above speech content. In study 5, we find that people with prior hiring experience use speech patterns in preinterview conversations to judge the fit, competence, starting salary, and signing bonus of prospective job candidates in ways that bias the process in favor of applicants of higher social class. Overall, this research provides evidence for the stratification of common speech and its role in both shaping perceiver judgments and perpetuating inequality during the briefest interactions.