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The development of the perception of emotion from vocal cues Pennington, Helen Rosemary

Abstract

The present study investigates developmental trends in the perception of emotions from vocal cues. Subjects included 20 children from each of Grades 3, 5, and 7, and 20 college undergraduates, with equal numbers of males and females at each age level. They heard a tape containing 16 brief speech samples, selected from dramatic recordings of both male and female voices, to represent happiness, sadness, anger, or fear. The samples had been rendered unintelligible by means of randomized splicing. Subjects identified the emotion portrayed in each sample, from a list containing the four possible emotions. Results indicated that recognition accuracy was affected by age of judges, with college students doing better than schoolchildren. Significant effects on recognition accuracy were also found for type of emotion, and sex of speaker. The Sex of Judges X Sex of Speaker interaction was significant, with female judges performing better than male judges when the speaker was female, and male judges performing better than female judges when the speaker was male. The Type of Emotion X Sex of Speaker interaction was also significant, with happiness being more often identified correctly with a female speaker than with a male speaker. Evidence of response bias was found. The relative frequencies of specific types of error were found to differ significantly from those predicted on the basis of response bias and differential response accuracy for each emotion. The pattern of errors varied significantly with age. Grade 7 judges deviated most from their predicted pattern, and college students deviated least. Sex of speaker also affected the pattern of errors, with several types of error, including stimulus 'sadness'-response 'fear', being more common with female speakers, and others including stimulus 'happiness'-response 'anger', being more common with male speakers. The limitations of studies like the present one were discussed, particularly as regards the nature of the speech samples used.

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