There's been a study done of activity in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of the brain.
It was carried out by scientists at University College London and at Yale, and what the study did was to study thirty nine conversations between people of different social backgrounds to see what happened in their brains while they were talking, and in particular to study activity in their left dorsolateral prefrontal cortices.
The claim is that the results show that automatic activity in this part of the brain steers people towards modifying their accents to be nearer to those of their companions.
Professor Joy Hirsch, of UCL believes that this brain-activity system has developed to help people of different backgrounds get on well together.
Lead author Olivia Descorbeth, from Yale, has a similar take on the results of the study:
'Now we know...that humans have a neurobiology that helps us navigate social differences.'
Except, except...what about all the occasions where people use their accents to accentuate their social differences? The higher-class telephone voice, for example? Or the careful correction of non-standard pronunciation in a reply?
I can't help but wonder if this study looked at people who were already disposed to cooperate with one another.
What does seem to be the case, out here in the real world, is that changing one's accent to suit one's audience is generally reckoned to be a sign of insincerity.
Is something happening in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex when we aren't trying to fit in? Or somewhere else in the brain?
I think we need to know.
Word To Use Today: cortex. This word is Latin and means bark (presumably as in tree) or outer layer.