348 Voice Empathy Cues

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Research by Kraus, M. W. (2017).

Written by Shannon Cantalupo, B.S.

When do you think you can best tell an individual’s expressing empathy?  When you listen to their voice-only, when you see and hear them, or in person? Good actors portray emotions in their facial expression and in their voice. But which communication is the best indicator?

Researchers investigated whether there was a difference between voice-only communication and other senses communication. Over 1,700 individuals participated in a total of five studies conducted to assess empathy accuracy. Some individuals participated in voice-only and vision-only communication, between friends or strangers. Others completed surveys.

Results showed that voice-only communication created slightly more empathic accuracy compared to vision-only and other forms of communication. Voice-only communication may have created more empathic accuracy by focusing attention on key vocal cues. People’s facial expression may not be a reliable indicator of a person’s empathy compared with listening only to their voice.  Perhaps we are distracted by others’ gestures, and whole presentation that does not give any clues as to their empathy. People may hide their emotions.

Giving and receiving social cues from each other is the basis of close communication and personal relationships.  Listen carefully, to detect empathy, focus on how as well as on what others say.

Reference:

Kraus, M. W. (2017). Voice-only communication enhances empathic accuracy. American             Psychologist, 72(7), 644-654.

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About Author

Adele Hall is the administrative assistant for the School of Psychology in charge of uploading the Psychology Science minutes. The authors of the minutes are listed in the written portion. The Psychology Science Minutes are coordinated by Juanita N. Baker, Ph.D., faculty emerita, and reviewed by former Dean Mary Beth Kenkel, faculty emerita.

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