Flexible voices: Identity perception from variable vocal signals

Nadine Lavan, A. Mike Burton, Sophie K Scott, Carolyn McGettigan

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review


Human voices are extremely variable: The same person can sound very different depending on whether they are speaking, laughing, shouting or whispering. In order to successfully recognise someone from their voice, a listener needs to be able to generalise across these different vocal signals ('telling people together'). However, in most studies of voice identity processing to date, the substantial within-person variability has been eliminated through the use of highly controlled stimuli, thus focussing on how we tell people apart. We argue that this obscures our understanding of voice identity processing by controlling away an essential feature of vocal stimuli that may include diagnostic information. In this paper, we propose that we need to extend the focus of voice identity research to account for both 'telling people together' as well as 'telling people apart'. That is, we must account for whether, and to what extent, listeners can overcome within-person variability to obtain a stable percept of person identity from vocal cues. To do this, our theoretical and methodological frameworks need to be adjusted to explicitly include the study of within-person variability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-102
Number of pages13
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number1
Early online date25 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

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