The universal truth is we all have an accent. Our accent communicates who we are because it reveals where we come from. It's only when we find ourselves in a new place among people from a different background that others think we have an accent. So how exactly do accents develop?

In the BrainCraft video, “The Psychology of Accents,” host Vanessa Hill explains “accents develop because people living in close proximity grow to share a way of speaking and we have our own accent bias." However, even the English speaking world has so many accents regardless of sharing a common language. For example, in England it became fashionable to pronounce a soft “r” to have a non-rhetoric accent, so the word “hard” sounds like “hahd.” America has retained its rhetoric accent, so the word hard has a strong “r” sound. It makes sense, then, that countries colonized by the British later, like Australia, are non-rhetoric.

Accents not only reveal where we come from but possess information about our level of education, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. They can also shape our perception of others, even if they’re not always so accurate. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology observed the effects that accents have on credibility and found when a person with an accent made a factual statement, say “A giraffe can go without water longer than a camel can," people were less likely to believe it was true.” The researchers concluded, the heavier the accent, the less believable they were perceived to be.

This type of perception is also common with regional accents within a country. In a UK study, people were more likely to rate a suspect as guilty if they had a regional English accent compared to a London accent. Interestingly, villains in several Disney films have foreign accents, such as Scar in The Lion King and Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmatians.

This can be attributed to prosody, or our positive-bias toward people who have accents similar to our own. When we like how someone talks and process what they say, our brain regions involved with emotions also become involved — a process known as affective processing. In other words, this is when you like one thing and it causes you to like another thing even more without you realizing.

While we tend to favor people within our own groups, even these groups are growing within other groups, which leaves room for plenty of ambiguity.

Perhaps in the digital age, our accent-free, universal language is emojis.