••• consumer psychology

British accent engenders more trust

More than two-thirds (68%) of respondents surveyed by language education firm Preply said that someone’s accent changes how trustworthy they found that person to be, as reported by Kylie Moore in a Preply blog post (“Study reveals accents Americans find most attractive”).

What makes an accent seem trustworthy? Research from the University of Chicago suggests that cognitive fluency may also play a role. If the brain has more difficulty understanding someone’s speech, it’s easier to doubt the accuracy of what has been said and, therefore, think of it as less trustworthy.

There may be some correlation between this phenomenon and the accents the survey identified as most trustworthy. All of them were from predominantly English-speaking countries, rather than from countries where English is a second language. More than half of respondents said a British accent was one they could trust and 22% said it would make someone seem more trustworthy. Thirty-eight percent said a Canadian accent was trustworthy, with 15% saying it would make someone seem more trustworthy. Similarly, among respondents, 38% said they could trust an Australian accent, matching the total for a Canadian accent, although slightly fewer (13%) said it would make someone seem more trustworthy. 

••• social media research

Influencers can’t rely on blue check mark for sales impact

A social media graphic with a women appearing from a phone screen.New research from the University of Maine Business School shows that, for social media influencers, the verification provided by the sought-after blue check mark (indicating the account has been vetted and the user’s identity confirmed) isn’t always a positive.

For one part of the study, “When influencers are not very influential: The negative effects of social media verification,” published in February in the Journal of Consumer Behavior, researchers presented study participants with either a fitness or beauty influencer account that was either verified or unverified and advertised a product. The participants were again asked to rate them on a scale from one to seven on various factors that were consolidated into ratings for attractiveness, trustworthiness, credibility and celebrity. The participants also rated how well the advertisement “fit” with the account and how likely they were to buy the product.

Not only do consumers associate verification more with celebrity than authenticity or credibility but, because of that, they are less likely to trust a verified social media influencer who advertises a brand that is inconsistent with their usual messaging. Even when brand and influencer align, consumers do not trust verified accounts more than their unverified counterparts.