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Social-Organizational Psychology
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Social-Organizational Psychology

Research > Loriann Roberson

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Loriann Roberson

Topics of Interest:
Workforce diversity:  the experiences of underrepresented groups, and organizational workforce diversity initiatives. 

Current Workgroup Members:
  • Ariel Bernstein, Ph.D. Student
  • Paola Briganti, Faculty member at Università degli Studi di Napoli Parthenope, Italy
  • Joe Dillard, Ph.D. Student
  • Asha Gipson, Ph.D. Student
  • Marcello Russo, Faculty member at Kedge Business School, Bordeaux, France
  • Luisa Varriale, Faculty member at Università degli Studi di Napoli Parthenope, Italy
Workgroup Members Continuing Work on Projects & Papers:
  • Mateo Cruz, Ph.D. Student
  • Rachel Fudman, Ph.D. Student
  • Regina Kim, Ph.D. Student
Current Research Projects:

Accent and Language Differences as Dimensions of Diversity in Organizations

The rising globalization of employment increases interactions between native and non-native speakers in the workplace.  The proposed research examines the work experiences of non-native employees interacting with native speakers. 

A common language is required for people from different nations and cultures to work together effectively.  The rise in immigration, mobility, and cross-national work thus requires that many people work in a non-native language, resulting in differences in language fluency and accent at work. Accent is a part of one’s social identity and an important cue for social categorization on the part of listeners (Lev-Avi & Keyner, 2010; Rakic, Steffens, & Mummendey, 2011).   Research in social psychology and communication has examined non-native accent as a social categorization cue, evaluating how it is perceived by native speakers.  Decades of research in both English and non-English speaking countries have shown that non-native speakers are perceived more negatively than native speakers. Non-native speakers are judged by native speakers as less pleasant to listen to, as less intelligent, less loyal, less credible, and less competent. However, several studies have indicated that non-native speakers are aware of listener prejudice, and believe their accent is a source of tension at work.  This work suggests that contexts where non-native speakers interact with native speakers are likely to be threatening.  Our first study explores the strategies used by non-native speakers in interaction with native speakers, and the antecedents and consequences of those strategies.  We are conducting both laboratory and field research in three countries (US, France, and Italy) to explore the generalizability of results.  In the future, we plan to continue with research that will explore the effects of language and accent differences on team dynamics and effectiveness, and interventions to reduce the tensions produced by language and accent differences. 

Representative Publications:
Roberson, L., Kulik, C.T., & Tan, Y.R.  (2013). Effective diversity training. In Q.M. Roberson (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Diversity and Work (pp.  341-365). New York: Oxford University Press.

Information for interested applicants:

Please contact Dr. Roberson at lr2356@tc.columbia.edu