Harsh is large: nonlinear vocal phenomena lower voice pitch and exaggerate body size

Anikin, Andrey, Pisanski, Katarzyna, Massenet, Mathilde and Reby, David (2021) Harsh is large: nonlinear vocal phenomena lower voice pitch and exaggerate body size. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 288 (1954). a20210872 1-8. ISSN 0962-8452

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A lion's roar, a dog's bark, an angry yell in a pub brawl: what do these vocalizations have in common? They all sound harsh due to nonlinear vocal phenomena (NLP) - deviations from regular voice production, hypothesized to lower perceived voice pitch and thereby exaggerate the apparent body size of the vocalizer. To test this yet uncorroborated hypothesis, we synthesized human nonverbal vocalizations, such as roars, groans and screams, with and without NLP (amplitude modulation, subharmonics and chaos). We then measured their effects on nearly 700 listeners' perceptions of three psychoacoustic (pitch, timbre, roughness) and three ecological (body size, formidability, aggression) characteristics. In an explicit rating task, all NLP lowered perceived voice pitch, increased voice darkness and roughness, and caused vocalizers to sound larger, more formidable and more aggressive. Key results were replicated in an implicit associations test, suggesting that the 'harsh is large' bias will arise in ecologically relevant confrontational contexts that involve a rapid, and largely implicit, evaluation of the opponent's size. In sum, nonlinearities in human vocalizations can flexibly communicate both formidability and intention to attack, suggesting they are not a mere byproduct of loud vocalizing, but rather an informative acoustic signal well suited for intimidating potential opponents.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: acoustic communication, body size, nonlinear vocal phenomena, pitch, roughness, voice, Acoustics, Aggression, Body Size, Pitch Perception, Sound, Voice
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2021 13:23
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2021 16:46
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/102214

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