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Finding Your Voice: How The Way We Sound Shapes Our Identities

Our voices convey so much more than just information. They can tell other people something essential about who we are.
Our voices convey so much more than just information. They can tell other people something essential about who we are.

At some point in our lives, many of us realize that the way we hear our own voice isn't the way others hear us. And we begin to realize that our voices communicate so much more than mere information: they reveal our feelings, our temperament, our identity.

"Voice is about who you are," says Rupal Patel, a speech scientist at Northeastern University. "Our voice signals how old we are. Our voice signals our gender. Our voice signals, you know, things about our personality."

This week on Hidden Brain, we look at the relationship between our voices and our identities. We'll hear how advances in technology might help people with vocal impairments. And we consider the ethical quandaries that arise when we can create personalized, customized voices.

Additional resources:

1) Communication Analysis And Design Laboratory at Northeastern University

2) "Review of text-to-speech conversion for English," by Dennis H. Klatt in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 1987

3) Google CEO Sundar Pichai's Keynote Address at the Google I/O Conference in 2018

Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Jennifer Schmidt, Parth Shah, Rhaina Cohen, Laura Kwerel and Thomas Lu. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain, and listen for Hidden Brain stories each week on your local public radio station.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Shankar Vedantam is the host and creator of Hidden Brain. The Hidden Brain podcast receives more than three million downloads per week. The Hidden Brain radio show is distributed by NPR and featured on nearly 400 public radio stations around the United States.
Thomas Lu is an assistant producer for Hidden Brain.He came to NPR in 2017 as an intern for the TED Radio Hour. He has worked with How I Built This, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Pop Culture Happy Hour. Before coming to NPR, he was a production intern for StoryCorps.
Tara Boyle is the supervising producer of NPR's Hidden Brain. In this role, Boyle oversees the production of both the Hidden Brain radio show and podcast, providing editorial guidance and support to host Shankar Vedantam and the shows' producers. Boyle also coordinates Shankar's Hidden Brain segments on Morning Edition and other NPR shows, and oversees collaborations with partners both internal and external to NPR. Previously, Boyle spent a decade at WAMU, the NPR station in Washington, D.C. She has reported for The Boston Globe, and began her career in public radio at WBUR in Boston.
Rhaina Cohen is a producer and editor for NPR's Enterprise Storytelling unit, working across Embedded, Invisibilia, and Rough Translation.