Reaction Time Differences in Identification of Speaker Gender and Ethnicity
Dr. Sonja Trent-Brown, Hope College
The purpose of this study was to examine reaction times of listeners making perceptual identifications of speaker ethnicity and gender. Listeners heard stimuli produced by 20 African American and European American adult male and female speakers. The stimuli were presented with respect to phonetic complexity (sentences and words) and temporal condition (forward and reversed), producing four unique blocks that were presented to participants in counterbalanced fashion. The listeners were 281 European American undergraduate students from west Michigan (N=281). Dependent measures included accuracy of identification and confidence ratings as well as the identification reaction time and rating reaction time associated with the judgments. For identification reaction time the main effect of phonetic complexity was statistically significant such that listeners’ reaction times for speaker identification were faster when the perceptual stimulus was more phonetically complex. Speaker ethnicity was statistically significant as well as listeners identified speakers as African American more rapidly than when they identified speakers as European American. There was a statistically significant main effect of speaker gender such that listeners’ reaction times were faster when identifying a speaker as male rather than female. For confidence rating reaction time the main effect of phonetic complexity was significant with listeners rating their confidence level faster when the perceptual stimulus was less phonetically complex. Speaker ethnicity was also significant as listeners were faster at rating their confidence level when the perceptual stimulus was perceived to be an African American speaker as compared to when the perceptual stimulus is perceived to be a European American speaker. Finally, speaker gender was significant with listeners faster at rating their confidence after identifying the speaker as a male rather than identifying the speaker as female. These findings suggest important implications for educational, forensic, and business applications with respect to linguistic profiling and perceptual stereotyping.
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