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Speaking, writing, radio…do you think that I like to hear myself? Actually, like many people I can’t stand the sound of my own voice. While hundreds of thousands of people have heard me speak either in person or over the airwaves, whenever I hear myself, it sounds awfully weird.

Why is that?

Why does the clarity and confidence of a Morgan Freeman voiceover have such power, when the voice we hear on our voicemail sound so uncomfortable for our ears? Do you suppose Morgan Freeman dislikes the sound of his own voice? The answer to this riddle lies in research performed by a team in Stockholm.  They had students record a short story, and then rate their performance of the reading with a Voice Evaluation Questionnaire.  The students also completed a questionnaire measuring how socially anxious they were.  After the students had left, an independent rater listened to the tape recordings, and rated them on an equivalent Voice Evaluation Questionnaire.

The researchers were trying to discover whether social anxiety correlated with the self-evaluation of the reading, or the independent evaluation.  If the anxiety scale correlated with the self-report, but not the observer report, it would mean our negative views on our own voices are only apparent to ourselves.  If the anxiety scale correlated with the observer report, it would mean that the anxiety is coming through in our voices – it’s noticed by others.

Happily, the results indicated the former – to us, our voices sound weird, but other people don’t notice anything. So this distorted perception of our own voices is more to do with our own anxieties, and little to do with other peoples’ judgement. Good news, then.  I’m not sure whether the reason our voices sound worse to ourselves is because they echo in our skulls or not, but it’s all in our heads either way.

I have grown used to hearing my voice and would appreciate hearing yours!

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