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Poster B29

Low-level acoustic feature perception differs across affective prosody

Poster Session B - Sunday, April 14, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Jax Skye1 (, Jonathan Peters1, Jordan Luna1, Dorit Kliemann1, James Traer1; 1The University of Iowa

Affective prosody, encompassing intonation, stress, and rhythm, plays a pivotal role in conveying emotional information in speech. Impaired perception of affective prosody is associated with several psychiatric conditions. It remains unclear how speaker emotion might affect the perception of subtle differences in low-level acoustic features like loudness and pitch. This study investigated participants’ (n = 40 (12 male), mean age = 18 years (18-24)) ability to perceive pitch and loudness manipulations in recordings of semantically neutral sentences spoken in affective prosody (angry, happy, neutral). Accuracy in perception of acoustical feature variation was influenced by prosodically conveyed affective state for both loudness (F(1,74) = 4.3, p < .017, partial η2 = 0.1) and pitch (F(1,74) = 8.2, p < .001, partial η2 = 0.18). Participants were more sensitive to loudness for angry and neutral (both p = .033) compared to happy prosody. Pitch sensitivity was higher for neutral compared to affective prosody (angry p = .002; happy p < .001). Exploratory correlation analyses suggested associations between pitch sensitivity and socially relevant psychopathology traits: participants with higher levels of social anxiety and autistic social symptoms showed higher accuracy. In conclusion, our findings suggest that speaker emotion affects the ability of humans to hear low-level acoustical structure of speech. Additionally, perceptual accuracy may be indicative of differences in social functioning with relevance for psychopathology. Future studies, currently underway, will investigate specificity to acoustic features independent of affective prosody, individual differences in larger samples, relevance for psychiatric diagnosis, and underlying neurobiological mechanisms.

Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Other


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