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The Voice of Reason: an exploration of the calming effects of the voice

I am currently conducting research for my dissertation, the topic of which is, broadly, ‘what makes a voice calming?’ The research looks into the calming effects of the human voice, which vocal characteristics can be linked to this, and whether there are any listener effects present. I chose to investigate this topic because it is, as yet, sparsely-researched; even on a small scale such as this, the idea of filling a gap in the human knowledge bank excites me. The research also has potential for applications in healthcare, especially mental health (for instance: the development of a ‘panic attack app’, voice coaching for mental health nurses etc.), and speech and language processing (for example: could a universally ‘calming’ voice by synthesised?) I began my research by drawing together the existing knowledge; since this is sparse, I read into additional fields such as music therapy, hypnosis and the effects of sound waves on the nervous system (i.e. sound baths). The stimuli were eight voice clips, four male and four female, with neutral/RP accents. The experimental stage of the research is tripartite: first, a rating task to determine the four most ‘calming’ voices in conjunction with other characteristic judgements; second, a stress experiment to measure the effects of the voices on participant heart rate; and third, a close phonetic comparative cross-analysis of the voices. Additionally, the existing ‘folk- linguistic’ perspective, such as advice articles on “how to help your friend having a panic attack” will be compared to the results of the study.