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The Perception and Parameters of Intentional Voice Manipulation

Abstract

Evidence suggests that people can manipulate their vocal intonations to convey a host of emotional, trait, and situational images. We asked 40 participants (20 men and 20 women) to intentionally manipulate the sound of their voices in order to portray four traits: attractiveness, confidence, dominance, and intelligence to compare these samples to their normal speech. We then asked independent raters of the same- and opposite-sex to assess the degree to which each voice sample projected the given trait. Women’s manipulated voices were judged as sounding more attractive than their normal voices, but this was not the case for men. In contrast, men’s manipulated voices were rated by women as sounding more confident than their normal speech, but this did not hold true for women’s voices. Further, women were able to manipulate their voices to sound just as dominant as the men’s manipulated voices, and both sexes were able to modify their voices to sound more intelligent than their normal voice. We also assessed all voice samples objectively using spectrogram analyses and several vocal patterns emerged for each trait; among them we found that when trying to sound sexy/attractive, both sexes slowed their speech and women lowered their pitch and had greater vocal hoarseness. Both sexes raised their pitch and spoke louder to sound dominant and women had less vocal hoarseness. These findings are discussed using an evolutionary perspective and implicate voice modification as an important, deliberate aspect of communication, especially in the realm of mate selection and competition.

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Acknowledgments

We wish to thank The Summer Albright College Research Experience Program (ACRE) for their support of this research.

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Correspondence to Susan M. Hughes.

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Hughes, S.M., Mogilski, J.K. & Harrison, M.A. The Perception and Parameters of Intentional Voice Manipulation. J Nonverbal Behav 38, 107–127 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10919-013-0163-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10919-013-0163-z

Keywords

  • Voice manipulation
  • Voice attractiveness
  • Voice pitch
  • Dominance
  • Intelligence
  • Confidence