Hearing changes how people perceive gender

Oct. 26, 2007 at 11:57 PM
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CHICAGO, Oct. 26 (UPI) -- People can feel unsettled when a person's voice doesn’t fit his or her gender, because the brain may do multi-sensory processing, a U.S. study suggests.

Lead author Eric Smith, a graduate student; Marcia Grabowecky, a research assistant professor of psychology; and Satoru Suzuki, an associate professor of psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University say researchers have long thought that one part of the brain does vision and another does auditory processing, and that the two don’t communicate with each other.

"But emerging research suggests that rich information from different senses come together quickly and influence each other so that we don’t experience the world one sense at a time," Grabowecky said in a statement.

The researchers used "simple tones with no explicit gender information to get a window into how vision and audition work together to process gender information," Grabowecky said.

The study, published in Current Biology, shows that when an androgynous face was paired with a pure tone that fell within the female fundamental-frequency range -- 160 to 300 Hz -- people were more likely to report that the face was that of a female.

Topics: Eric Smith
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