Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Gender Identification from High-Pass Filtered Vowel Segments: The Use of High-Frequency Energy

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Gender Identification from High-Pass Filtered Vowel Segments: The Use of High-Frequency Energy

Article excerpt

Published online: 17 June 2015

# The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2015

Abstract The purpose of this study was to examine the use of high-frequency information for making gender identity judgments from high-pass filtered vowel segments produced by adult speakers. Specifically, the effect of removing lowerfrequency spectral detail (i.e., F3 and below) from vowel segments via high-pass filtering was evaluated. Thirty listeners (ages 18-35) with normal hearing participated in the experiment. A within-subjects design was used to measure gender identification for six 250-ms vowel segments (/æ/, /I /, /?/, /?/, / ?/, and /u/), produced by ten male and ten female speakers. The results of this experiment demonstrated that despite the removal of low-frequency spectral detail, the listeners were accurate in identifying speaker gender from the vowel segments, and did so with performance significantly above chance. The removal of low-frequency spectral detail reduced gender identification by approximately 16 % relative to unfiltered vowel segments. Classification results using linear discriminant function analyses followed the perceptual data, using spectral and temporal representations derived from the high-pass filtered segments. Cumulatively, these findings indicate that normalhearing listeners are able to make accurate perceptual judgments regarding speaker gender from vowel segments with low-frequency spectral detail removed via high-pass filtering. Therefore, it is reasonable to suggest the presence of perceptual cues related to gender identity in the high-frequency region of naturally produced vowel signals. Implications of these findings and possible mechanisms for performing the gender identification task from high-pass filtered stimuli are discussed.

Keywords Bandwidth . Gender . High-frequency energy . Identification . Vowels

The ability of normal-hearing listeners to identify speaker gender from an audio signal has been found to be dependent on acoustic information, including the fundamental frequency (F0) and the low-frequency vocal tract resonance characteristics (i.e., formants). Specifically, research has shown listeners to be exceptionally accurate when making this perceptual judgment using information from the low-frequency region (i.e., below F3) of the speech spectrum (e.g., Gelfer & Bennett, 2013; Gelfer & Mikos, 2005; Lass, Hughes, Bowyer, Waters, & Bourne, 1976; Poon & Ng, 2011; Skuk & Schweinberger, 2014; Whiteside, 1998). Consequently, substantial research examining the perceptual nature of this spectral region and its contribution to gender identity judgments has been undertaken (see the references above). Conversely, there is a paucity of research examining the use of high-frequency acoustic cues for gender determination. This study reports gender identification results for normalhearing listeners using high-frequency acoustic information from naturally produced, high-pass filtered vowel segments.

Early research by Lass et al. (1976) evaluated the ability of normal-hearing listeners to determine speaker gender from naturally produced vowel segments. The listeners in this experiment were presented 500-ms vowel segments from ten male and ten female speakers in three conditions: (1) unfiltered, (2) low-pass filtered at 255 Hz, and (3) whispered. Although F0 was found to be a salient acoustic cue involved in identifying speaker gender, listeners still performed above chance (75 %) on the gender identification task in the condition lacking any F0 information (i.e., whispered speech). Therefore, information from vocal-tract resonance properties (formants) also provides cues to gender identity.

Whiteside (1998) examined gender identification abilities for ten synthesized vowels created using average acoustic parameters derived from the speech of three male and three female adult speakers. The author used an F0-formantmatching technique in which, for some conditions, the acoustic parameters were consistent with the speaker gender, and at other times they were contradictory. …

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