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date: 16 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The human voice is a rich source of information and an important means of interpersonal communication. Beginning with Darwin (1872), nonverbal vocal communication has long interested evolutionary scientists, and in the last quarter century empirical research on voice production and perception from an evolutionary perspective has increased dramatically. One reason for this surge of interest is that behavioral ecologists and evolutionary psychologists have taken advantage of recent technological improvements in acoustic analysis software as well as sound recording and reproduction devices. More importantly, many voice researchers have recognized that the extraction of biologically relevant information from the vocal channel constitutes a set of adaptive problems widely shared across many species. Evolutionary scientists studying human vocal behavior therefore have a rich theoretical framework and an established comparative basis for developing specific research questions. For any vocal species, including humans, we should expect perceptual adaptations designed to process acoustic features of the vocal sounds of conspecifics (other individuals of the same species). An evolutionary approach provides a framework for specifying the nature of these adaptive perceptual problems. In this chapter, the authors describe recent work focusing on human voice perception from an evolutionary perspective and provide examples of the value of this approach for gaining a full understanding of this fundamental aspect of human behavior.

Keywords: behavioral ecology, emotional vocal signals, evolution, evolutionary psychology, interpersonal communication, sexual dimorphism, signal design, speaker intention, vocal attractiveness, voice perception

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