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Voice-based assessments of trustworthiness, competence, and warmth in blind and sighted adults

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posted on 2023-06-13, 15:02 authored by Anna Oleszkiewicz, Katarzyna Pisanski, Kinga Lachowicz-Tabaczek, Agnieszka Sorokowska
The study of voice perception in congenitally blind individuals allows researchers rare insight into how a lifetime of visual deprivation affects the development of voice perception. Previous studies have suggested that blind adults outperform their sighted counterparts in low-level auditory tasks testing spatial localization and pitch discrimination, as well as in verbal speech processing; however, blind persons generally show no advantage in nonverbal voice recognition or discrimination tasks. The present study is the first to examine whether visual experience influences the development of social stereotypes that are formed on the basis of nonverbal vocal characteristics (i.e., voice pitch). Groups of 27 congenitally or early-blind adults and 23 sighted controls assessed the trustworthiness, competence, and warmth of men and women speaking a series of vowels, whose voice pitches had been experimentally raised or lowered. Blind and sighted listeners judged both men’s and women’s voices with lowered pitch as being more competent and trustworthy than voices with raised pitch. In contrast, raised-pitch voices were judged as being warmer than were lowered-pitch voices, but only for women’s voices. Crucially, blind and sighted persons did not differ in their voice-based assessments of competence or warmth, or in their certainty of these assessments, whereas the association between low pitch and trustworthiness in women’s voices was weaker among blind than sighted participants. This latter result suggests that blind persons may rely less heavily on nonverbal cues to trustworthiness compared to sighted persons. Ultimately, our findings suggest that robust perceptual associations that systematically link voice pitch to the social and personal dimensions of a speaker can develop without visual input.


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Psychonomic Bulletin and Review




Springer US





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