n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Effects of English, Cape Coloured and gay accents on perceived witness credibility

Volume 29 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Group and race-based discrimination remains present in South Africa, in part as an Apartheid by-product, and can result in biased treatment. The study investigated whether and how accents influence perceptions of credibility, focussing on English, Cape-Coloured, and Gay accents. Results from an online questionnaire (N=295) showed that race significantly influenced which accent was deemed most believable (X2 (4) = 9.88, p ≤ .043). Focus group interviews (N=18) suggested that perceived education level was the biggest factor in determining credibility. The Gay accent was deemed most believable and rated highest on intelligence, although qualitative findings suggested that a witness with this accent might not be believed in criminal justice settings, due to homophobia and assumed likelihood to exaggerate. The Cape-Coloured accent was deemed less believable due to associations with lack of education, crime, and dangerousness'. The English accent was rated highest on reliability, likeability, confidence, and honesty, and perceived as being educated, professional and important. Additionally, findings suggested that 'white guilt' may be a significant factor in how white students shared perceptions of black and coloured accents.

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