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J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2007 Oct;33(5):1208-19.

Lifting the curtain on the Wizard of Oz: biased voice-based impressions of speaker size.

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Behaviour and Evolution Research Group, Department of Psychology, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Canada.


The consistent, but often wrong, impressions people form of the size of unseen speakers are not random but rather point to a consistent misattribution bias, one that the advertising, broadcasting, and entertainment industries also routinely exploit. The authors report 3 experiments examining the perceptual basis of this bias. The results indicate that, under controlled experimental conditions, listeners can make relative size distinctions between male speakers using reliable cues carried in voice formant frequencies (resonant frequencies, or timbre) but that this ability can be perturbed by discordant voice fundamental frequency (F-sub-0, or pitch) differences between speakers. The authors introduce 3 accounts for the perceptual pull that voice F-sub-0 can exert on our routine (mis)attributions of speaker size and consider the role that voice F-sub-0 plays in additional voice-based attributions that may or may not be reliable but that have clear size connotations.

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