Your Tone of Voice Affects How You Feel

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Can you hear a little quiver in your own voice? It could make you feel even sadder. A new study published in the journal PNAS finds that emotions don’t just influence how we talk; how we talk can influence our emotions. 

Led by a researcher from France’s National Center for Scientific Research, a group of scientists tested how 100 Japanese and French speakers reacted when their voices were changed in real-time to express different emotions. Using digital audio processing, they shifted the pitch of participants’ voices as they read a short story aloud to make them sound happier, sadder, or more fearful. The participants could not perceive the change when they heard their voices played back to them through headphones—and yet their emotions changed when their voices did.

This is not the first study to suggest a link between our emotions and our voices. People can detect whether someone is smiling based just on their voice, for instance, and emotions can certainly be influenced by the sound of another person's voice, as in music. But in this case, it's not just that people are communicating to others via the sound of their voice—they're also communicating to themselves. Rather than simply reflecting their mood in the tone of their voice, people may actually listen to their own speech to figure out how they’re feeling in some cases.