Research suggests you can make accurate decisions about a persons age, health and height simply from hearing them speak. We put the hypothesi to the test
Can you hear my voice in my written words? How old do I voice? Researchers at Nottingham Trent University have found surprising parity between the judgments people make from hearing a spoken voice and the judgments they construct from find a face. The findings, published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology , show that age-ratings based on voices and faces were within just four years of each other.
People havent genuinely looked at the extent to which voice and face overlap, apart from in relation to attractiveness, says Harriet Smith, who started the research in June 2013 for her PhD. Her team worked with 47 people to whom they proved 18 photographs of faces, each for two seconds. They were asked to rate the person or persons in the image for age, height, weight, health and masculinity/ femininity. Afterwards, the latter are played a two-second audio clip of 18 voices and again asked to rate them. They were not told that the voices belonged to the people in the photographs.
The genuinely pertinent issue is how much these ratings are related to each other, says Smith. Are you attaining the same kind of judgment about people from hearing their voice and insuring their face? She plans to continue the research, to find whether the results have a forensic application. What might be important to the police is that face and voice might be offering quite a lot of overlapping information.
Smith has been chatting to me on the phone for five minutes by this point. Can she judge my age, height and weight? I wouldnt wishes to do that, she says. But she lets me calculate hers. Smith voices authoritative, so I set her height at 5ft 6in, her age at 33 and her weight as median. From her clear, bright voice, I guess that she is extremely healthy. So how did I do?
Pretty close, says Smith, who is 5ft 7in and aged 30. She is in good health and her BMI is bang in the middle of the acceptable range.
This level of accuracy induces me feel confident. To test my skills further, a colleague gets an acquaintance to bellow me. After correctly identifying him as male, I put his age at 27( he turns out to be 28 ), his height at 5ft 11 in( correct) and his health at six out of seven( he subsequently says he is suffering from a slightly sore throat ). Maybe discovering a previously unsuspected talent has built me sound brighter and more confident, because the unknown caller estimates me to be 16 years younger than I am and four inches taller.
This exercise is turning out to be more fun than I thought. I estimate my next mystery caller to be 59( she is 65) and 5ft 5in( 5ft ), her weight to be somewhat above average( correct) and her health to be slightly below( she has recently had anaemia ). I am still feeling pretty good from the first caller, but this mystery female comes within a whisker of my true height and age. It could have been worse, but there is no escaping the help feeling that within five minutes I have shrunk and aged. This is probably a good place to stop.
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