Date of Award

2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

McLennan, Conor

Subject Headings

Speech perception, Word recognition, Emotions, speech perception, spoken word recognition, emotional tone of voice

Abstract

Despite the importance of emotional tone of voice for optimal verbal communication, how emotional speech is processed and its effects on spoken word recognition have yet to be fully understood. The current study addressed these gaps in the literature by examining the effects of intra-talker variability in emotional tone of voice on listeners' ability to recognize spoken words. Two lexical decision experiments, varying in task difficulty, were implemented to analyze participants' percent correct (PC) and reaction times (RTs). Previous research on spoken word recognition using this paradigm has found performance costs resulting from stimuli that mismatch on specific information (e.g., the identity of the talker) contained in the speech signal. Such specificity effects occurred only when processing was relatively slow, not when processing was relatively fast. In the current study, when processing was fast (Experiment 1), no specificity effects of emotional tone of voice emerged. When processing was slow (Experiment 2), specificity effects of emotional tone of voice emerged, but only for target words spoken in a sad emotional tone of voice and not for target words spoken in a frightened emotional tone of voice. RTs to sad target words mismatched in emotional tone of voice from prime to target blocks were longer than those that matched, but RTs to frightened target words were the same regardless of the emotional tone of voice of the word in the prime block. Separate analyses were conducted on the top and bottom performers on a Musical Listening Test (MLT). For those who scored in the top 25 , for sad target words only (not frightened), specificity effects of emotional tone of voice emerged. For those who scored in the bottom 75 on the MLT, no specificity effects emerged, regardless of emotional tone of voice. The results of the current study have important implications for theoretical models of spoken word recognition and emotional tone of voice

Included in

Psychology Commons

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