165. How We Talk and Why It Matters with Katherine Kinzler

How you talk informs who you are, who you group up with, and how you perceive others. But while language is a profoundly powerful influencer of how we engage in the social world, we seldom acknowledge its impact on social injustice. In this episode, Yael talks with professor and psychologist Katherine Kinzler about the role of language and accent in prejudice, empathy, identity, morality, and ingroup/outgroup formation. In Katherine’s book, How You Say It: Why You Talk the Way You Do-And What It Says About You, she describes how language and accent are an often overlooked contributor in cultural affiliation and discrimination. Katherine offers evidence for their critical role in perpetuating injustice, and shows us why increasing awareness of linguistic biases can empower us to pave the way towards a more just and compassionate future.

Listen and Learn:

  • The surprising ways that language influences who we are and our cultural affiliation
  • The power of language in perpetuating prejudice and stereotyping
  • How media and film perpetuate stigma related to language and accent
  • Why the evolution of language can predispose humans towards prejudice
  • How recent events demonstrate the overlooked role of linguistic discrimination
  • That language is not just about communication, but rather is about social life
  • Why common myths about monolingualism are wrong
  • How we can use language as a tool to increase compassion and empathy, and reduce prejudice

About Katherine Kinzler

Dr. Katherine Kinzler is a psychology professor at the University of Chicago. Her research sits at the intersection of developmental and social psychology where she focuses on the origins of prejudice and ingroup outgroup thinking with an emphasis on understanding how language and accent mark social groups. Katherine’s writing has appeared in the New York times and other media outlets and the world economic forum named her as one of the 50 scientists under 40 working to shape our future.


How You Say It: Why You Talk the Way You Do-And What It Says About You, by Katherine Kinzler

NPR Interview with Katherine Kinzler

NYT Book Review on How You Say It

Katherine’s University of Chicago webpage

Other Resources:

Article showcasing the work of Dr. Deborah Tannen

Link to Duolingo, a fun, game-based app that helps adults and children learn new languages

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Episode 165