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Highlights from major acoustical science and technology conference, Nov. 15-19
Date:11/3/2010

Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands, Disa Sauter is finding clues by listening to deaf people laugh, sigh and shout. Her latest experiments suggest that some of the ways we express emotions are built-in, while others are learned through experience.

Sauter asked deaf participants to produce nine different types of emotional vocalizations. Listeners tried to determine which emotion each sound communicated, and the acoustic characteristics of each sound were compared to noises made by people with normal hearing. Because the deaf have never had the chance to hear other people making these sounds, they offer researchers a way to figure out whether these expression of emotion are innate in the brain or learned through experience.

Her data suggests that some sounds -- like laughter -- are fairly innate to the human brain: the laugh of a deaf person sounds much like the laugh of a person who can hear. But other expressions of emotions by people who cannot hear -- such as a cheer of triumph -- are virtually unidentifiable to people who can hear, suggesting that they are shaped by our experiences.

"There isn't one solution for all kinds of vocalization," says Sauter. "But for some vocalizations you need to have heard the sounds of other people."

Sauter is also comparing these results with a previous study -- which compared how people in different cultures express emotion -- to get a fuller picture of why we produce the sounds we do.

The poster "The role of perceptual learning in emotional vocalizations (5aSC12)" by Disa Sauter will be on Friday morning, November 19.

Abstract: http://asa.aip.org/web2/asa/abstracts/search.nov10/asa837.html

Dr. Sauter has written a lay-language paper that describes this research in greater detail. It is available upon request and will be posted to ASA's virtual press room shortly before th
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Contact: Jason S. Bardi
jbardi@aip.org
301-209-3091
American Institute of Physics
Source:Eurekalert

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