The sound of voice: Voice-based categorization of speakers' sexual orientation within and across languages

Simone Sulpizio, Fabio Fasoli, Anne Maass, Maria Paola Paladino, Francesco Vespignani, Friederike Eyssel, Dominik Bentler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Empirical research had initially shown that English listeners are able to identify the speakers' sexual orientation based on voice cues alone. However, the accuracy of this voicebased categorization, as well as its generalizability to other languages (language-dependency) and to non-native speakers (language-specificity), has been questioned recently. Consequently, we address these open issues in 5 experiments: First, we tested whether Italian and German listeners are able to correctly identify sexual orientation of same-language male speakers. Then, participants of both nationalities listened to voice samples and rated the sexual orientation of both Italian and German male speakers. We found that listeners were unable to identify the speakers' sexual orientation correctly. However, speakers were consistently categorized as either heterosexual or gay on the basis of how they sounded. Moreover, a similar pattern of results emerged when listeners judged the sexual orientation of speakers of their own and of the foreign language. Overall, this research suggests that voice-based categorization of sexual orientation reflects the listeners' expectations of how gay voices sound rather than being an accurate detector of the speakers' actual sexual identity. Results are discussed with regard to accuracy, acoustic features of voices, language dependency and language specificity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0128882
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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