Development of voice perception is dissociated across gender cues in school-age children

Leanne Nagels*, Etienne Gaudrain, Deborah Vickers, Petra Hendriks, Deniz Başkent

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
152 Downloads (Pure)


Children’s ability to distinguish speakers’ voices continues to develop throughout childhood, yet
it remains unclear how children’s sensitivity to voice cues, such as differences in speakers’ gender,
develops over time. This so-called voice gender is primarily characterized by speakers’ mean
fundamental frequency (F0), related to glottal pulse rate, and vocal-tract length (VTL), related to
speakers’ size. Here we show that children’s acquisition of adult-like performance for discrimination,
a lower-order perceptual task, and categorization, a higher-order cognitive task, differs across voice
gender cues. Children’s discrimination was adult-like around the age of 8 for VTL but still differed from
adults at the age of 12 for F0. Children’s perceptual weight attributed to F0 for gender categorization
was adult-like around the age of 6 but around the age of 10 for VTL. Children’s discrimination and
weighting of F0 and VTL were only correlated for 4- to 6-year-olds. Hence, children’s development
of discrimination and weighting of voice gender cues are dissociated, i.e., adult-like performance
for F0 and VTL is acquired at different rates and does not seem to be closely related. The different
developmental patterns for auditory discrimination and categorization highlight the complexity of the
relationship between perceptual and cognitive mechanisms of voice perception.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5074
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19-Mar-2020


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