Smile and Dial – The World Can Hear Your Smile

Science Daily is reporting today on new research from scientists at the University of Portsmouth says that says smiling affects how we speak, to the point that listeners can identify the type of smile based on sound alone. Here is the abstract for the paper:

The present study investigated the vocal communication of naturally occurring smiles. Verbal variation was controlled in the speech of 8 speakers by asking them to repeat the same sentence in response to a set sequence of 17 questions, intended to provoke reactions such as amusement, mild embarrassment, or just a neutral response. After coding for facial expressions, a sample of 64 utterances was chosen to represent Duchenne smiles, non-Duchenne smiles, suppressed smiles and non-smiles. These audio clips were used to test the discrimination skills of 11 listeners, who had to rely on vocal indicators to identify different types of smiles in speech. The study established that listeners can discriminate different smile types and further indicated that listeners utilize prototypical ideals to discern whether a person is smiling. Some acoustical cues appear to be taken by listeners as strong indicators of a smile, regardless of whether the speaker is actually smiling. Further investigations into listeners’ prototypical ideals of vocal expressivity could prove worthwhile for voice synthesizing technology endeavoring to make computer-simulations more naturalistic.

This is real science folks. Remember all those times you had to cold call and you heard “smile and dial” from your biz dev manager? Well, it turns out she was right. Your customer sub-consciously heard, not only that you weren’t smiling, but that you were gritting your teeth in anger.

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