When people’s voices are digitally altered to sound happier, sadder, or more fearful, their emotional states change to reflect the emotion in their voices, according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Previous research has shown listeners may be more likely to remember the emotion behind someone’s words than the words themselves, but this is the first evidence that direct modification can change someone’s emotional experience through what they hear in their own voice.
Modifying Voices to Manipulate Emotions
Researchers from universities and sound labs in France, Sweden, and Japan developed a platform that uses digital audio processing algorithms to mimic the acoustics of natural emotional vocalizations. They used this platform to modify the pitch, inflection, and spectral content in people’s voices as they spoke. For example, for a voice to sound happier, they modified the pitch and inflection to make it sound more positive, altered its dynamic range to make it sound more confident, and changed its spectral content to make it sound more excited.
During the experiment, participants remained unaware of the manipulation, suggesting they were not constantly monitoring the emotion in their voices. Participants perceived the modifications as natural displays of emotion, and their emotional states changed in accordance with the emotion their voices were implying.
Voice Modification Could Be Useful in Therapy
Outside of academic research, the authors say these tools could be used for therapeutic purposes, such as a new way to treat mood conditions. For example, voice modification could induce positive attitude changes by having a person in therapy recount affected memories or redescribe emotional events in a modified voice tone.
The study’s authors are going to make their platform available online, so anyone can download and use the tools for their own experiments.
- Lund University. (2016, January 11). The way you sound affects your mood. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160111162659.htm
- Springer Science+Business Media. (2012, December 11). Emotion in voices helps capture listener’s attention, but in the long run the words are not remembered as accurately. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121211112742.htm
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