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

gether to be coded as a human voice. The researchers took advantage of the fact that pure tones can be used to deliver individual frequency components that are registered in early auditory brain areas.

The findings showed that when an androgynous face was paired with a pure tone that fell within the female fundamental-frequency range, people were more likely to report that the ambiguous face was that of a female. But when the same face was paired with a pure tone in the male fundamental-frequency range, people were more likely to see a male face. (The bias did not occur when a face was paired with a pure tone that was too low or too high to be in the typical speaking range.)

The strength of the study is that pure tones sound like beeps, and they primarily activate early stages of auditory processing, Grabowecky said. We think that the effect demonstrates a direct input from early auditory processing to visual perception.

When people were forced to guess whether the tones were in the male range, the female range or outside of the typical speaking frequency range, their guesses were inaccurate and relative. In other words, when people heard a pair of pure tones, they tended to hear the higher tone to be feminine and the lower tone to be masculine regardless of the actual frequencies of the tones.

Such relativity is not surprising, because our auditory experience depends on relative, rather than absolute, frequencies as most useful and entertaining auditory information, such as speech and music, is carried by how sound frequencies change over time, Grabowecky said.

Absolute frequencies do not matter much, as we readily understand speech spoken by people with low and high voices and enjoy songs regardless of the keys in which they are played. In contrast, it is the neglected absolute-frequency information that influences visual perception of gender.

A conscious impression of your voice is not what enhances your look of masculi
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Contact: Pat Vaughan Tremmel
p-tremmel@northwestern.edu
847-491-4892
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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