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A Sound Effect: Exploration of the Distinctiveness Advantage in Voice Recognition

Published: 16 July 2018
Sound wave

A new paper by Prof Sarah Stevenage demonstrates a distinctiveness advantage for voice recognition.

From our everyday interactions with other people, we know that some people’s voices are naturally more distinct than others. These voices appear to stand out from the crowd, but are distinct voices actually recognised better than typical voices?  To investigate this question, a recent study presented participants with two sentences, one after the other, and participants were asked to identify whether the speaker of the second sentence was the same person or a different person. Results showed that people were better at recognising distinct compared to typical voices, even under challenging listening conditions of reversed speech. These findings have implications for earwitness testimony, in which police may be able to place greater confidence in identifications of distinct compared to typical voices. However, care must be taken, as distinct voices can also be subject to feelings of false familiarity. These findings provide promising evidence of a distinctiveness advantage for voice recognition in challenging listening conditions.


Stevenage, S. V., Neil, G. J., Parsons, B., & Humphreys, A. (2018). A sound effect: Exploration of the distinctiveness advantage in voice recognition. Applied Cognitive Psychology.

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