On Tuesday, I drove to San Francisco to give a good friend a ride to the airport, I decided that after I dropped him off, I would see the city a little bit, since I have only been to the bay area one other time.
I thought about it while I was driving through the traffic, and came up with a plan for a small social experiment. I came up with a few sentences, such as “do you mind helping a lost tourist” and “am I going the right way if I want to get to Union Square.” I decided to ask a few people with an American accent and some other ones with a British one, I wanted to see if people would be more or less helpful because of my accent.
I had the hardest time finding a place to park and so I had to ask a few people if they knew of any affordable places or of any places that validate parking. The people who I spoke to with a British accent were more helpful, and one of them was actually able to take the time to help me. After I had parked, near Pier 29, I needed to find my way to Union Square. The person who I spoke to with a British accent gave me a map and asked me where I was from.
As I was walking I kept my experiment in mind and even though I didn’t need directions anymore I still asked people every once in a while, using each accent every other time. I also tried to reach different demographics, as in I spoke to men and women and tried to speak to both younger and older people. About 95% of the time my British accent got me more help than my American one, even though I said the same exact thing, with the same exact tone.
I wish I knew why this was the case. I didn’t have enough time in the city to actually go up to the people and tell them about the experiment and ask them why they did what they did. I’m hoping that in the future I can do a larger scale experiment of the same kind, and actually later on ask the people about their manner in responding and why they responded the way they did.
I hope you find this as interesting as I did, and maybe try it for yourself and see if you get the same results as me.