Free «Gender Influences in Speech Perception» Essay Sample

Gender Influences in Speech Perception


Humans have a complex body system, in which speech recognition is one of the basic aspects of interaction with others. The reason for it is that recognizing speech enables one to answer. In the same way, the level of speech recognition is not the same for different people; thus, some words may be misinterpreted or even unheard. Lower speech recognition level in most cases is attributed to noise that can either be within a person or go from the external environment. For example, children in the class are unlikely to comprehend what the teacher says when everyone is shouting (Meyer, Dentel & Meunier, 2013). In the same way, an individual under stress will be unable to understand a message he/she gets due to the noise in his/her mind. Different groups of people also show dissimilarity in speech recognition. One can commonly notice certain individuals who demonstrate perfect speech recognition. It can be related to age, health or gender of a person. It is, thus, important to answer the following question: are there gender differences in speech perception? The discussion will entail analyzing the gender differences in vocal accommodation, the speech recognition across the life span, and sex differences in the use of delayed semantic context when listening to disrupted speech. It will also include the examination of the conclusions that the three articles under study provide.

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Gender Differences in Vocal Accommodation

The article “Gender Differences in Vocal Accommodation: the Role of Perception” (Namy, Nygaard, & Sauerteig, 2002) has been instrumental in investigating the relationship between gender and speech recognition. It states that individuals are accommodative and can develop different behavior so that they can attain a certain goal, for instance, acceptance into a social group or even obtainment of social approval. In the same way, Namy, Nygaard, and Sauerteig (2002) argue that the individuals also have indexical characteristics and can apply a number of strategies to adapt them to their conversational partners. They claim that accommodation can be either convergent or divergent. The first type of accommodation refers to the individuals making their vocal traits more similar to that of the interlocutors while in the case of divergent accommodation, an individual adopts characteristics distinct from that of the conversation companions. According to most studies, interlocutors have positive influence on their partners. It is common for someone to adopt convergent accommodation in both style and accent when speaking with the members of commission during a job interview (Namy, Nygaard, & Sauerteig, 2002). It is important to note that such peculiarities as ethnicity, gender, and social status of an individual have an influence on the level of accommodation. However, Namy, Nygaard, and Sauerteig (2002) state that gender differences in vocal accommodation are the most distinct. The authors allude to the fact that women accommodate to men easier than men to women do. In addition, in general, both men and women are more accommodative to men. To analyze this phenomenon, the researchers conducted experiments, which concerned the understandability of different voices identification. The experiment involved both males and females. It had demonstrated that women proved to identify voices better.

There is an idea that accommodation can also be applied to the level of perceptual sensitivity. Another experiment was performed to check whether vocal accommodation in different genders enhanced with the social interaction. Both men and women participated in the test; they were required to mimic different speakers over the headphones while seating alone in a room (Namy, Nygaard, & Sauerteig, 2002). The researchers compared vocal accommodation rates of men and women via the paradigm that comprised of three tasks: listener’s task, shadower’s task, and speaker’s task. In this case, the speaker had to articulate original words while the shadower had to repeat them. The listener, in his/her turn, had the task of judging which shadower sounded closer to the original speaker. The analysis of the outcome showed that female shadowers were more accommodative as compared to their male counterparts. The scientists also noted that the shadowers developed enhanced accommodation to the male speakers. It shows that both men and women were more accommodative to male speakers than to female ones (Namy, Nygaard, & Sauerteig, 2002). The analysis of the findings demonstrated that the gender difference influence on the vocal accommodation behavior persisted even in the setting that allowed minimum social interaction. Therefore, partly, the perceptual sensitivity or level of attentiveness to the indexical information drives the gender differences in vocal accommodation. One can further state that socio-historical factors connected with socialization and social motives may explain the perception that different genders have.

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Speech Recognition across the Life Span

In the article “Speech Recognition across the Life Span: Longitudinal Changes from Middle-Age to Older Adults” by Dubno (2014), the author explores the effects of the diseases, environmental factors, and aging-related alterations as forces that may lead to physiological, neurochemical, and anatomic deficits. Dubno claims that these deficits may be the contributing factors to the loss of hearing. What is more, the decline in executive functions, processing speed, and cognitive functions like memory work as well as attention can overwhelm the already aging brain. The method that the author uses is the cross-sectional study, which aims to quantify the lifespan changes that relate to age. The speech recognition has been used as an instrument that is most likely to help in the identification of the risk factors attributed to the age-related alterations as well as interactions. The longitudinal study assesses the individuals’ speech recognition via same measures over a long period (Dubno, 2014). In this case, the participant doubles his/her control, and it helps in the elimination of issues related to variations in nutrition, accommodation, and other aspects. 

In the longitudinal study that investigated the speech recognition ability of people of different ages, gender, environmental, cognitive, and health factors indicated a change in reception connected with noise with an increase in age. However, with the increasing detection in the threshold, it was difficult to determine the extent of the speech recognition over noise in relation to age, at which the speech audibility reduced at the same time. The longitudinal study revealed that in elder people, speech recognition increases as compared to the detection threshold over the same period of time (Dubno, 2014). The participants were exposed to the sounds of different frequency. They had to listen to the words and sentences, which allowed the measurement of their voice recognition ability. In the assessment of the longitudinal alteration in the thresholds in pure-tone used the gender and ear as covariant. The results showed that at higher frequencies, men reported poorer thresholds as compared to women. In the quiet and babble longitudinal alteration, speech recognition decreased with increase in age, while its acceleration was noted at age bracket 65-70 years (Dubno, 2014). The scores of men were lower than those of women. Even in the bubble decrease in score was significant only in men.

Sex Differences in the Use of Delayed Semantic Context When Listening to Disrupted Speech

The article “Sex Differences in the Use of Delayed Semantic Context when Listening to Disrupted Speech” by Liederman et al. (2012) utilizes the evidence-based experiment to investigate sex differences in speech recognition ability in the circumstances of noisy environment. The experiment involved different participants of both genders aged 18 and 45 (Liederman et al., 2012). It included such activities as the reading of a word to the participants with the introduction of cough noise on the distance of about 100 meters; it had to identify those who still could recognize the word despite the noise (Liederman et al., 2012). The experiment also involved providing the informative words in the sentences whereby the participants were supposed to choose them from a pair of variants using the rime principles. Another activity concerned the uninformative words. For the last exercise, the participants had to highlight unspoken word through utilizing lip-reading strategy. The outcome of the experiment indicated that the women recorded results, which were better by 10% than that of the men, in performing the informative sentences exercise (Liederman et al., 2012). There was no significant variation between results of completing the uninformative words exercise by both sexes. Women recorded to recognize higher number of words through the lip-reading activity.

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The experiment showed that women’s performance in delayed semantic context recognition was better than that of the men. This experiment indicates that even with an increase in the difficulty of a task, for example, the use of longer sentences, the actual deletion of rimes as well as word masking, women still performed better. Men recorded the highest number of the incorrect words, which demonstrated that sexes were not the actual reason of difference in the outcome since they both had an equal representation. The females’ advantage in the recognition of the delayed words could be attributed to the brain lateralization. It has been identified that in verbal task performance, women were able to activate both hemispheres. Other researchers including von Kriegstein, Smith, Patterson, Kiebel, and Griffiths (2010) have also confirmed this biological fact; they connect the left hemisphere with the higher level of speech recognition. The right-handed men have never demonstrated this phenomenon. It is important to note that the left hemisphere has greater influence on speech recognition as compared to the right one. Therefore, it may be the explanation to the fact that men show worse results in delayed semantic recognition.

Comparison of the Results

It is evident that in the three studies mentioned in this paper, various factors like environment, health, and age determine the speech recognition concept. One can also agree with the fact that all of these studies state that the speech recognition ability of the females is greater than that of the males. According to Namy, Nygaard, and Sauerteig (2002), the reason for the existence of this difference lies in the socio-historical factors. The results showed that females demonstrated higher level of convergent accommodation to their interlocutors especially in cases when they were men. What is more, men showed poorer results in matching the speakers’ voices while women were able to do it with ease. Probably, it means that the women were brought up in the environment that allows them to be attentive and keen; thus, in this way, they have mastered the art of speech recognition (Namy, Nygaard, & Sauerteig, 2002). The key notion here is that the females were more dependent on men. Therefore, they had to be more attentive to the male voices than to the female ones. The results showed that even when the female listeners had to listen to the female voices, most of them failed to mimic them and instead mimicked the male voices better. It has been attributed to the social motive of women. They seek to be accepted and, thus, tend to be more accommodative to the companions.

Another study by Dubno (2014) supports the idea that the other two researchers had provided: women show higher level of speech recognition; however, this study differed in terms of explanation. The author points to the fact that the differences in speech recognition arise due to the various factors. These factors involve aging-related conditions, diseases, and environmental aspects that lead to physiological, neurochemical, and anatomic deficits in people (Dubno, 2014). However, the author fails to state the reason that makes females more capable of speech recognition across all ages categorically. The researcher only provide a hypothesis, according to which this process relates to the differences in exposure to environmental factors or the aging-related social or biological construction (Dubno, 2014). It is, thus, evident that despite the fact that women have a greater ability of the speech recognition, there is still the need to conduct more studies, which will assist in answering the given question in the future. 

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The study by Liederman et al. (2012) provides a conclusive remark: gender has a great influence on the level of speech recognition. It has stated that women could easily indicate the delayed semantics even in the noisy environment. The level of difficulty does not lower their performance in speech recognition. The scientists disagree with another author on the reason for the difference (Liederman et al., 2012). The authors of the given study have based the deduction on biological facts. They indicate that the difference in the levels of speech recognition is a biological function of the two groups (Liederman et al., 2012). Their position is that human brain composes of two hemispheres that help in the speech articulation, and, therefore, one of the hemispheres is more specialized in speech recognition. To be specific, the authors allude to the fact that the left hemisphere has a greater ability to recognize the speech, and since biologically, women are able to use both hemispheres, they are able to identify even low-tone speech better than men are (Liederman et al., 2012). The study also demonstrates that left-handed men will be able to have more developed speech recognition ability because they equally utilize both hemispheres of brain.


In conclusion, it is evident that women have more developed speech recognition ability than men do. In the first study, the authors divided the participants into speakers, shadowers, and listeners. The shadowers were supposed to repeat the speakers’ words while the listeners offered judgment on who mimicked the speakers better. The women showed higher level of voice recognition and, thus, subconsciously accommodated to the voices they heard. However, they were more accommodative to the male voices. The authors state that it is a result of the socio-historical factors and social motives influence. The second study also proved that women were better in speech recognition across all ages. The author explains that it could be a result of age-related, environmental, health as well as biological factors impact. However, the researcher fails to define the gender-related cause of the phenomenon. The third study is in agreement with the findings of two previous works: it shows that speech recognition ability of women is better than that of men. The authors derive the conclusion from the experiment that involves the participants of both genders who are expected to recognize delayed semantics. The women performed better, which means that the issue of speech recognition definitely somehow relates to gender. The rationale offered is that for the females, using the left hemisphere of the brain is easier than for men. The left hemisphere allows speech recognition. Thus, for this reason, women are better in speech recognition than men are.