Have you ever given yourself a pep talk in the mirror to boost your confidence? Sometimes our own behavior informs us of how we are feeling; if you smile, you might start to feel happier, for instance. However, what would happen if you heard a digitally altered, happier version of your own voice? Would that make you feel more positive? Based on a study published this month in PNAS, there’s a good chance it would. To test the awareness of people’s emotional expressions, a team of researchers developed digital algorithms that alter voices to sound happier, sadder, or more fearful. These digitally altered voices were subsequently played back in real time to unknowing participants. Surprisingly, hearing their altered voice subsequently caused a change in their mood. When hearing their own “sad” voice, participants reported feeling sad, and when hearing their own “happy” voices, participants reported feeling happier. This suggests that auditory feedback has a direct influence on our emotional state – even if it didn’t actually emanate from our own vocal cords.
While there is still much more basic research that needs to be done using these digital algorithms, there is great potential for the development of new therapies to treat mood disorders. For example, digitally altering a patient’s voice may help induce positive attitude change or reduce the emotional impact of traumatic events.
Original research article: 10.1073/pnas.1506552113
This post is part of the Psy-Friday series; every Friday Zan talks findings in psychology, and how knowing the mind can influence health and well-being.