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Vocal frequency and person perception: Effects of perceptual salience and nonverbal sensitivity

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Previous research has demonstrated that changes in vocal frequency (pitch) influence judgments made about a speaker, although there is some question as to the relative importance of frequency to message content in person perception. Moreover, these studies have failed to examine the possible joint effect of frequency and individual differences in nonverbal sensitivity on person perception. The purpose of the present investigation was to examine the independent and joint effects of vocal frequency, perceptual salience, and nonverbal sensitivity (assessed by the Profile of Nonverbal Sensitivity) on person perception. Participants were assigned to one of nine experimental conditions and were asked to rate two male and two female speakers on seven unipolar adjective scales. The nine conditions were produced by factorially combining three levels each of salience (content, voice, control) and vocal frequency (decreased, increased, unmanipulated). The results of hierarchical multiple regression analyses indicated that variations in frequency did influence evaluative judgments of the speakers (competent, honest, persuasive), but that the magnitude of the influence varied as a function of the participants' levels of nonverbal sensitivity. The analyses, however, yielded no significant effects for participants' affective judgments, nor any significant effects involving perceptual salience.

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Correspondence to Joan Welkowitz.

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Bond, R.N., Welkowitz, J., Goldschmidt, H. et al. Vocal frequency and person perception: Effects of perceptual salience and nonverbal sensitivity. J Psycholinguist Res 16, 335–350 (1987). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01069287

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  • Regression Analysis
  • Individual Difference
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Multiple Regression Analysis
  • Joint Effect