Flexible voices: Identity perception from variable vocal signals

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

80 Citations (Scopus)
41 Downloads (Pure)


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 generalize 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
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2019
Externally publishedYes


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