Cognitive Neuroscience Talks

Voice Production and Perception: Between phylogenetic data and sociocultural models

My PhD thesis focuses on voice, not only as merely carrying speech but also as a signal system designed to convey non-linguistic information too. The purpose of my thesis was 1) to provide additional evidence regarding the existence of human voice parameters which could be reliable indicators of a speaker’s physical characteristics 2) to examine the ability of listeners to judge voice pleasantness and speaker‘s characteristics from speech samples. I used 26 male voices and 5 groups of female and male listeners according to the kind of vocal corpus (vowels, words, non sense words, pragmatic text, non pragmatic text). Theses are the main results: - Formant components tend to reveal some of the speaker's characteristics such as: age, height, and testosterone level. Our study confirms that in all the mammal species examined thus far, including human, formant components could provide a relatively accurate indication of a vocalizing individual’s characteristics. - Consensus on the voice pleasantness judgment and on the inferences regarding the speaker (age, height) can be noted. Theses appear whatever the linguistic nature of the vocal production listened, even while listening to a simple series of vowels. - The listeners prove themselves able to infer correctly the speakers' age but not height, as they mistakenly use non-reliable acoustic indications such as pitch. Consequently, even though some information regarding the speaker is actually carried by voice, the listeners are not bound to use them. - There is no gender effect on the judgments: both male and female listeners seem to produce the same judgments. - A vocal corpus effect on the judgments produced while listening to voices can be observed, principally opposing the vowels to the other corpora. - It generally turns out that male and female speakers use mainly voice prosodic information and not the spectral aspects such as pitch and the voice tone.