Investigators will judge your social status within seconds of opening your mouth, study finds

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Employers judge the social status of potential employees just seconds after hearing them speak for the first time, according to researchers who say it could affect job prospects and pay.

The researchers argued in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the idea that the United States is meritocratic – summed up by the American dream – adds to “the willful ignorance of Americans about the relative lack of real economic mobility in society.”

Social class, which researchers have defined as a person’s status in society reflected by income, occupation and level of education, is in fact “remarkably stable” from generation to generation, have they declared.

To study how social class signals might help or hinder job seekers, researchers at the Yale School of Management conducted five studies involving hundreds of people.

The researchers asked people to listen to the individuals talk and guess their class. The team found that participants were able to correctly guess a speaker’s class, race, age and gender more than half the time. Another showed that speakers were more likely to be identified as belonging to a higher social class if they had a voice similar to the subjective standard, like that of virtual assistants from Google and Amazon. The team also found that participants judged a speaker’s social status based on their pronunciation rather than what they said.

In the final part of the study, researchers asked 274 people with hiring experience to listen to 20 job applicants, from diverse social classes in the New Haven, Connecticut area, describe themselves. during a discussion prior to the interview.

Respondents were more likely to think that a candidate was competent and suitable for a job if they were perceived to be from a higher social class. They were also more likely to give them a better starting salary and a better signing bonus, compared to those considered to be in the lower class.

Michael Kraus, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management, said News week the study suggests that “only brief speech is needed to help us perceive social class. Second, it suggests that these early perceptions are sufficient to provide unfair benefits to people of higher social class in contexts of upkeep of social class. hiring.”

He said the team didn’t expect the effects of the hiring “to be that big.”

“We are talking about class differences in hiring decisions and judgments on the competence of candidates based on a speech only 15 to 20 seconds before a job interview,” he said. “It’s a lot to overcome for a candidate, even if they have the perfect skills and experience for a job. “

Then the work needs to be replicated across all sectors with varied samples and more staff and candidates, Kraus said. Researchers could, for example, study countries like the UK “where speech-based class distinctions have a longer history,” he said.

“This work really highlights the importance of values ​​around diversity and inclusion. To truly create a workforce that represents people’s great stories and that embodies the American Dream, organizations must give a greater value to that diversity per se, ”argued Kraus. .

He added: “If we really want to live in a meritocracy, we have to start having a conversation about what it would actually look like.”

Researchers examined how a person’s social status affects their employment prospects. An image of an employer offering a handshake to a candidate.
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