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Hearing changes how we perceive gender
Date:10/24/2007

dition work together to process gender information, Grabowecky said. Unlike stereotypical voices, the tones only hinted at male and female characteristics, and by coupling them with ambiguous faces, we were able to see how processing of various pitches affected vision very early in the sensory process.

The study builds upon scarce scientific evidence supporting the idea that sounds can alter how masculine or feminine a person looks.

Our vision can bias our experience of other senses, such as hearing, said Smith. We hear, for example, the ventriloquists voice coming from the dummy. In this study we wanted to see if hearing could change our visual experience.

We learn early on what auditory and visual characteristics accompany female and male voices, starting with our earliest experiences with our mothers and fathers, said Grabowecky. The question from the neuroscience perspective is when in the processing of perceptual information do auditory and visual senses interact with each other? How does the brain do this?

To test whether a sound can influence perception of a faces gender, the researchers digitally morphed male and female faces to create androgynous faces not easily categorized as male or female. Study participants were asked to look at the faces while listening to brief auditory tones, which fell within the fundamental speaking frequency range of either male or female voices.

In the initial stage of auditory processing, sounds are decomposed into basic frequency components, the lowest one called the fundamental frequency and higher ones called the harmonics. The fundamental frequency in the human voice typically falls between about 100 to 150 Hz for males and 160 to 300 Hz for females. Roughly speaking, the fundamental frequency determines the perceived pitch (lower for men and higher for women), and the harmonics add timbre (the quality of human voice).

In higher auditory brain areas, these frequencies are put back to
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Contact: Pat Vaughan Tremmel
p-tremmel@northwestern.edu
847-491-4892
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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