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Mid-Adolescents’ and Adults’ Recognition of Vocal Cues of Emotion and Social Intent: Differences by Expression and Speaker Age

Abstract

Previous research has suggested that the ability to recognize vocal portrayals of socio-emotional expressions improves with age throughout childhood and adolescence. The current study examined whether stimulus-level factors (i.e., the age of the speaker and the type of expression being conveyed) interacted with listeners’ developmental stage to predict listeners’ recognition accuracy. We assessed mid-adolescent (n = 50, aged 13–15 years) and adult (n = 87, 18–30 years) listeners’ ability to recognize basic emotions and social expressions in the voices of both adult and youth actors. Adults’ emotional prosody was better recognized than that of youth, and adult listeners were more accurate overall than were mid-adolescents. Interaction effects revealed that youths’ accuracy was equivalent to adult listeners’ when hearing adult portrayals of anger, disgust, friendliness, happiness, and meanness, and youth portrayals of disgust, happiness, and meanness. Our findings highlight the importance of speaker characteristics and type of expression on listeners’ ability to recognize vocal cues of emotion and social intent.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Hu was computed as follows (Wagner 1993): (number of correct responses/number of times that stimuli category was presented) × (number of correct responses/number of times that response was made).

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Funding

This work was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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Correspondence to Michele Morningstar.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the McGill Research Ethics Board, and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Appendix: Full Factorial ANOVA Model Results

Appendix: Full Factorial ANOVA Model Results

Vocal cues df F η 2 p
Listener age (1, 132) 14.49 .10 < .001
Listener gender (1, 132) 10.42 .07 < .01
Speaker age (1, 132) 140.71 .52 < .001
Speaker gender (1, 132) 4.84 .04 < .05
Expression (5.28, 696.76) 130.89 .50 < .001
Speaker age × listener age (1, 132) 0.23 < .01 .64
Speaker gender × listener gender (1, 132) 0.01 < .001 .93
Listener age × listener gender (1, 129) 0.09 .001 .76
Listener age × speaker gender (1, 132) 4.19 .03 .04
Speaker age × listener gender (1, 132) 0.12 .001 .73
Speaker age × speaker gender (1, 132) 2.03 .02 .16
Expression × listener age (5.28, 696.96) 3.54 .03 < .01
Expression × listener gender (5.28, 696.96) 0.54 < .01 .76
Expression × speaker age (5.25, 692.39) 12.02 .08 < .001
Expression × speaker gender (5.34, 705.42) 27.49 .17 < .001
Expression × listener age × listener gender (5.28, 681.12) 1.93 .01 .08
Speaker age × listener age × listener gender (1, 129) 0.18 .001 .67
Speaker gender × listener age × listener gender (1, 129) 0.93 .01 .34
Speaker age × speaker gender × listener age (1, 132) 1.65 .01 .20
Speaker age × speaker gender × listener gender (1, 132) 0.80 .01 .37
Speaker age × expression × listener age (5.25, 696.96) 3.55 .03 < .01
Speaker age × expression × listener gender (5.25, 696.96) 1.68 .01 .13
Speaker gender × expression × listener age (5.34, 696.96) 1.53 .01 .17
Speaker gender × expression × listener gender (5.34, 696.96) 1.60 .01 .15
Speaker age × speaker gender × expression (5.08, 670.26) 11.04 .08 < .001
Speaker age × speaker gender × listener age × listener gender (1, 129) 3.16 .02 .08
Speaker age × expression × listener age × listener gender (5.25, 681.12) 0.25 < .01 .95
Speaker gender × expression × listener age × listener gender (5.34, 681.12) 0.95 .01 .45
Speaker age × speaker gender × expression × listener age (5.08, 696.96) 1.19 .01 .31
Speaker age × speaker gender × expression × listener gender (5.08, 696.96) 1.37 .01 .23
Speaker age × speaker gender × expression × listener age × listener gender (5.08, 681.12) 1.01 .01 .41

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Morningstar, M., Ly, V.Y., Feldman, L. et al. Mid-Adolescents’ and Adults’ Recognition of Vocal Cues of Emotion and Social Intent: Differences by Expression and Speaker Age. J Nonverbal Behav 42, 237–251 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10919-018-0274-7

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Keywords

  • Emotion recognition
  • Social expressions
  • Vocal cues
  • Adolescence