Familiar Voices - Better Comprehension and Better at Ignoring?

Posted on October 8, 2018

In the present study, researchers recruited middle-aged couples and recorded them reading out scripts prepared by the researchers. In the second part of the study, each participant listened simultaneously to the recording of his or her spouse reading out the script, as well as that of an unfamiliar voice. They were either asked to report what their spouse said or what the unfamiliar voice said. This was to test whether comprehension would be affected by the familiarity of the voice being attended to.

The results showed a clear pattern in favour of the familiar voice; participants showed better performance on tasks when they heard their spouse’s voice compared to when they heard recordings of scripted instructions from an unfamiliar voice. In other words, comprehension was better when participants heard a familiar voice. This effect seemed to be true for older participants as well.

Age-related differences suggest that older participants were better able to differentiate between familiar and unfamiliar voices. Comprehension was better when the unfamiliar voice was masked by their spouse's voice compared to when it was masked by another unfamiliar voice. This suggests that they were better able to differentiate between familiar and unfamiliar speech characteristics so that they could ignore the familiar one, and attune to the unfamiliar voice more.

However, they were less accurate in their reporting of what the unfamiliar voice said compared to younger participants. This suggests that benefits of having a familiar voice when it comes to comprehension tasks may be larger for older participants, especially when there is a lot of background noise.

The present study thus posits a cognitive factor, i.e. familiarity of target voice, that could aid in the hearing and comprehension of older listeners.

Category(s):Aging & Geriatric Issues

Source material from Medical Xpress

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