Washington, Aug 29: The familiar voice of a spouse stands out against other voices, helping to sharpen auditory perception and making it easier to focus on one voice at a time, a new research has revealed.
The study's lead researcher Ingrid Johnsrude of Queen's University, Canada said that familiar voices appear to influence the way an auditory 'scene' is perceptually organized.
Johnsrude and her colleagues asked married couples, ages 44-79, to record themselves reading scripted instructions out loud. Later, each participant put on a pair of headphones and listened to the recording of his or her spouse as it played simultaneously with a recording of an unfamiliar voice.
In some trials, participants were told to report what their spouse said; in other trials, they were supposed to report what the unfamiliar voice said. The researchers wanted to see whether familiarity would make a difference in how well the participants understood what the target voice was saying.
It was found that participants tended to be much more accurate on the task when they had to listen to their spouse's voice compared to an unfamiliar voice matched on both age and sex - they perceived their spouse's voice more clearly.
But when participants were asked to report the unfamiliar voice, age-related differences emerged.
Middle-aged adults seemed to be relatively adept at following the unfamiliar voice, especially when it was masked by their spouse's voice - that is, they were better at understanding the unfamiliar voice when it was masked by their spouse's voice compared to when it was masked by another unfamiliar voice.
The researchers suggest that as people age, their ability to use what they know about voices to perceptually organize an auditory 'scene' may become compromised.
The study is published in journal Psychological Science. (ANI)