Frightened by the perpetrator's voice: Startle responsivity and cognitive processing predict earwitness speaker identification

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Abstract

This study was inspired by the case of a robbery victim who was startled and reminded of the crime upon hearing a stranger's voice, while not clearly recognizing the speaker. To investigate whether specific voices can modulate startle reactions and thereby predict speaker identification, we presented an audio hijack scenario to 84 participants and afterwards asked them to identify the perpetrator among neutral and negative speech fragments, while measuring flash-evoked eye-blink startle responses. Furthermore, we addressed data-driven cognitive processing during the audio scenario as a potential moderator in voice discrimination. Negative speech and the perpetrator's voice led to potentiated startle. Enhanced startle was positively associated with voice discrimination, but only in neutral speech fragments. In negative fragments, this association was weakened as a function of self-reported levels of data-driven processing during encoding. Thus, startle responses can generally predict accurate voice recognition, but speech emotionality and cognitive processing moderate this relationship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-88
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Psychology
Volume134
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018

Keywords

  • Speaker identification
  • Startle reflex
  • Skin conductance levels
  • Cognitive processing style
  • Traumatic memory
  • POSTTRAUMATIC-STRESS-DISORDER
  • INTRUSIVE MEMORIES
  • INDIVIDUAL-DIFFERENCES
  • FALSE MEMORY
  • TRAUMA
  • PTSD
  • RETENTION
  • ASYMMETRY
  • SYMPTOMS
  • STIMULI
  • Humans
  • Memory
  • Male
  • Cognition
  • Young Adult
  • Galvanic Skin Response
  • Reflex, Startle
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Wounds and Injuries/psychology
  • Mental Recall
  • Emotions
  • Fear
  • Recognition (Psychology)/physiology
  • Adolescent
  • Crime
  • Speech
  • Blinking
  • Voice

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