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Curr Biol. 2008 May 6;18(9):684-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.04.015.

Auditory adaptation in voice perception.

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  • 1Department of General Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, Friedrich-Schiller University, Jena, Germany.


Perceptual aftereffects following adaptation to simple stimulus attributes (e.g., motion, color) have been studied for hundreds of years. A striking recent discovery was that adaptation also elicits contrastive aftereffects in visual perception of complex stimuli and faces [1-6]. Here, we show for the first time that adaptation to nonlinguistic information in voices elicits systematic auditory aftereffects. Prior adaptation to male voices causes a voice to be perceived as more female (and vice versa), and these auditory aftereffects were measurable even minutes after adaptation. By contrast, crossmodal adaptation effects were absent, both when male or female first names and when silently articulating male or female faces were used as adaptors. When sinusoidal tones (with frequencies matched to male and female voice fundamental frequencies) were used as adaptors, no aftereffects on voice perception were observed. This excludes explanations for the voice aftereffect in terms of both pitch adaptation and postperceptual adaptation to gender concepts and suggests that contrastive voice-coding mechanisms may routinely influence voice perception. The role of adaptation in calibrating properties of high-level voice representations indicates that adaptation is not confined to vision but is a ubiquitous mechanism in the perception of nonlinguistic social information from both faces and voices.

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