Children Rely on Speaker Familiarity, but not Acoustic Properties, to Determine Emotional Intensity

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Stoop, Tawni Blaze
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
August 29, 2018
Committee Members:
  • Pamela M. Cole, Thesis Advisor
  • Rick O. Gilmore, Committee Member
  • Ginger Moore, Committee Member
  • speaker familiarity
  • children
  • affective prosody
This thesis examined the relations between acoustic properties that determine affective prosody, namely mean fundamental frequency (F0), F0 standard deviation, and speech rate, speaker familiarity, and children’s perceptions of emotional intensity for angry, happy, and sad prosodies. We hypothesized that the acoustic properties would significantly predict children’s ratings of emotional intensity. Further, we hypothesized that children would perceive their own mothers as being more intensely emotional than unfamiliar mothers, and that this speaker familiarity effect would account for a significant amount of variance in children emotional intensity ratings over and above the acoustic properties. This thesis employed a series of simultaneous regression analyses, a MANOVA model, and a series of hierarchical regressions. The results partially supported the hypotheses. Children rated their own mothers as more intensely emotional compared to the unfamiliar mothers, and this relationship depended on the emotion being conveyed. Speaker familiarity accounted for a significant amount of variance in children’s emotional intensity ratings over and above the acoustic properties only for the angry prosody recordings. However, the acoustic properties of F0, F0 standard deviation, and speech rate were not associated with children’s emotional intensity ratings for any of the affective prosodies. Interpretation of these findings, study limitations, and future directions are discussed.