Hate the sound of your own voice? You could be missing a shot at happiness

Embrace the sound of your own voice.
Embrace the sound of your own voice.
Image: Reuters/ Nir Elias
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It’s common to squirm at the sound of your own voice and indeed, there’s a scientific explanation for why we cringe: When you speak, you hear your voice as far richer than it really is, because of vibrations from our vocal chords. So when you hear it on a recording, it sounds unexpectedly tinny.

But persevere and listen; researchers have found evidence that hearing your own voice can affect your mood. With just a small audio tweak (the necessary tool is freely available here), your voice can even make you happier.

Researchers led by Jean-Julien Aucouturier from the France’s National Center for Scientific Research had 109 people read aloud from Haruki Murakami’s short story collection The Elephant Vanishes. Their voices were manipulated to sound happy, sad, or afraid, and played back to them via headphones as they spoke.

The paper, which has been approved for publication in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, explains that subjects who listened to their voice manipulated to sound happier showed increased positivity on emotions tests. Subjects who listened to a sad version of their own voices felt less positivity. The results were less definitive for the fear recording (perhaps, speculate the authors, because the story was not conducive to feeling afraid.)

Just as we use tone of voice to understand others’ moods, suggests the paper, we use the same cues to understand ourselves. In other words, if we sound happy, we feel happy.

“As such, our result reinforces the wider framework of self-perception theory: that we often use the same inferential strategies to understand ourselves as those that we use to understand others,” write the authors. The study fits in with broader research that finds our bodily behavior doesn’t just reflect our mood, but can affect it.

So if you’re alone and in need of a happiness boost, try it yourself: Record yourself speaking, manipulate the audio to sound happier (using the tool above), and listen.

The authors suggest this could become a useful technique in therapy. Co-author Katsumi Watanabe from Waseda University and the University of Tokyo in Japan said in a statement that listening to emotionally laden memories in a modified tone of voice could potentially be used to treat mood disorders.