People can identify a child’s gender by the sound of their VOICE from the age of five, study finds 

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  • Experts played audio of people’s voices to volunteers and asked them their gender
  • Adult volunteers were able to identify the gender of speakers at age five
  • Gender differences in children’s voices linked to the way they speak

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A new study suggests that people can accurately identify a child’s gender by the sound of their voice as early as the age of five.

Researchers in the US played audio clips of children’s voices to volunteers and asked them to guess their gender.

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They found that the gender of the talker could be identified by the age of five—about a decade before the differences in the vocal tracts of men and women developed during puberty.

Experts say that humans assess the gender of another speaker primarily on the pitch and resonance of their voice, but also by age, height, and other physical characteristics.

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We assess the speaker’s gender primarily on the speaker’s voice pitch and resonance, researchers from the University of California, Davis and the University of Texas at Dallas report.

pitch vs resonance

Pitch is the high or low frequency of sound. When you sing, you build pitch because your vocal cords vibrate at a certain speed.

For example, a foghorn emits a low frequency or pitch, while the sound your smoke detector emits is a high frequency or pitch.

Resonance refers to the sound quality of being deep, full and resonant.

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Pitch is the high or low frequency of sound, while resonance refers to the quality of a sound that is deep, full, and resonant.

“Resonance is related to speaker height—think violin versus cello—and is a reliable indicator of overall body size,” said study author Santiago Barreda at the University of California, Davis.

‘Besides these basic cues, there are other subtle cues related to behavior and the way a person “chooses” to speak, rather than strictly depending on the anatomy of the speaker.’

The perception of gender in children’s voices is of particular interest to researchers, as the voices of young boys and girls are very similar before they reach puberty.

On the other hand, adult male and female voices are usually quite different acoustically, making gender identification fairly easy.

So the researchers wanted to investigate how children’s voices change as they grow older.

Differences in the vocal tracts of males and females during puberty can be identified about a decade before they develop, such as growth of the larynx (or the voice box shaded in this artistic rendering).

Differences in the vocal tracts of males and females during puberty can be identified about a decade before they develop, such as growth of the larynx (or the voice box shaded in this artistic rendering).

vocal changes during puberty

As the human body goes through puberty, the larynx (or voice box) becomes larger and thicker.

It occurs in both boys and girls, but the change is more pronounced in boys.

Girls’ voices only deepen by a couple of tones and the change is barely noticeable. However, the boys’ voices begin to deepen.

The larynx, which is located in the throat, plays a major role in producing the sound of the voice. The two muscles, or vocal cords, stretch the larynx, like a rubber band.

When a person speaks, air escapes from the lungs and vibrates the vocal cords, which in turn produces the sound of voice.

Source: Kidshealth.org

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For the study, the team developed a database of speech audio samples from children aged five to 18.

The clips were the sounds of spoken syllables (‘pay attention’, ‘hoed’ and ‘who’d’) as well as in complete sentences (for example ‘teacher says you should heed his advice’) needed’).

The audio clip was played for 40 participants – 31 women and nine men, all of whom were graduate students at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Half of the listeners were assigned to hear individual syllables, while the other half heard entire sentences.

After the audio, participants identified the talker as either a man or a woman.

The results showed that the volunteers who listened to complete sentences were better able to identify the correct gender of the children in the audio, suggesting Gender differences in vowels come out better in sentences.

The researchers also made two other important findings – first, listeners can reliably identify the gender of children under five.

This is well before there is any structural difference between the speakers and any reliable difference in pitch or resonance.

Barreda said, “Based on this, we conclude that while the gender of different children is easily identifiable, it is due to differences in their behaviour, the way they speak, and not their physical Because of the creation.”

‘In other words, gender information in speech may be largely based on performance rather than physical differences between male and female speakers.’

Overall, the results indicate that children's genders can be accurately identified from their speech, especially when the audience is presented with longer sections of speech (sentences rather than syllables).  This image shows classification rates for individual talkers (ages five to 11), with numbers indicating the age of the talker (male in circles).  Vowels in the shaded quadrants were correctly identified on the basis of both sentences and isolated syllables

Overall, the results indicate that children’s genders can be accurately identified from their speech, especially when the audience is presented with longer sections of speech (sentences rather than syllables). This image shows classification rates for individual talkers (ages five to 11), with numbers indicating the age of the talker (male in circles). Vowels in the shaded quadrants were correctly identified on the basis of both sentences and isolated syllables

Second, they found that the gender identity of the speakers combined with the identity of age and potential physical size.

In other words, if you can figure out the gender of a baby by their voice, you’ll probably be able to guess their age and size correctly as well.

“Essentially, there is too much uncertainty in speech cues to treat age, gender and size as independent judgments,” Barreda said.

‘One way to solve this is to consider, for example, what 11-year-old boys sound like, rather than what 11-year-old boys sound like and what 11-year-olds say, as if these independent Have questions.’

The study has been published in Journal of the…

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