• Question: what sort of information do our voices contain?

    Asked by alevy42 to Nadine on 8 Jan 2018.
    • Photo: Nadine Lavan

      Nadine Lavan answered on 8 Jan 2018:

      All sorts! Voices are really really complex signals. When we hear someone’s voice, we cannot only make out what they are saying. But we also, for example, will have a pretty good idea about how old they roughly are, whether they are male or female and can maybe take a guess at whether they are speaking in their native language or not and so on!

      We can read another person’s mood and emotions from their voice: we can hear when people are nervous or stressed (the voice might become a bit unstable or brittle, for example) or when they are angry. Something to note here, though, is, that the things are not always clear cut: someone might be laughing, which would make us think they are happy or amused, but in reality it might be a nervous laugh! Luckily, we are, however, quite good a figuring such ambiguities out!

      And we can get information about a person’s specific identity: you’ll be able to recognise your close friends and family from their voices only. And for strangers, you can probably tell two different voices apart!