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Tue Dec 06 23:55:03 SAST 2016

The sound of your voice can affect your mood

AFP Relaxnews | 2016-01-19 13:22:06.0
When hearing their own voices altered to sound happier, sadder or more fearful, the emotional state of participants changed in accordance with the modification made.
Image by: AFP Relaxnews/©pio3/shutterstock.com

A study from the French National Center For Scientific Research (CNRS), published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) journal, has found that we are unaware of our emotional expressions and that our mood can be changed without our knowledge.

Recently recruited research associate on the CNRS "Perception and Sound Design" team, Jean-Julien Aucouturier has published new research looking at the mechanisms by which emotions are produced in the brain in response to different sound stimuli.

"Previous research has suggested that people try to manage and control their emotions, for example hold back an expression or reappraise feelings. We wanted to investigate what kind of awareness people have of their own emotional expressions," said Aucouturier.

For the purposes of the study, the team built a digital audio platform capable of modifying the emotional tone of voices in real time, making them sound happier, sadder or more fearful. Participants were asked to read a short text aloud while simultaneously listening to their own surreptitiously altered voice through headphones.

The results showed that when hearing their own voices altered to sound happier, sadder or more fearful, the emotional state of participants changed in accordance with the modification made. Participants were not aware that their voices were being altered or that this modification had affected their mood. 

The study's authors see their voice-transforming platform as a key tool for opening up new areas of research and experimentation. "Previously, this kind of emotional manipulation has not been done on running speech, only on recorded segments," said Jean-Julien Aucouturier.

Katsumi Watanabe, one of the report's co-authors from Waseda University and the University of Tokyo in Japan, suggested that the platform could find therapeutic applications, such as the treatment of mood disorders, inducing a positive attitude change by recounting emotionally charged events with an artificially altered tone of voice. It could also serve to control the emotional atmosphere in conversations in online meetings and video games.

The researchers have made the platform available as an open-source application on their website (http://cream.ircam.fr/?p=44) so that anyone can download and experiment with the tools.

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