Universal vocal signals of emotion

Abstract

Emotional signals allow for the sharing of important information with conspecifics, for example to warn them of danger. Humans use a range of different cues to communicate to others how they feel, including facial, vocal, and gestural signals. Although much is known about facial expressions of emotion, less research has focused on affect in the voice. We compare British listeners to individuals from remote Namibian villages who have had no exposure to Western culture, and examine recognition of non-verbal emotional vocalizations, such as screams and laughs. We show that a number of emotions can be universally recognized from non-verbal vocal signals. In addition we demonstrate the specificity of this pattern, with a set of additional emotions only recognized within, but not across these cultural groups. Our findings indicate that a small set of primarily negative emotions have evolved signals across several modalities, while most positive emotions are communicated with culture-specific signals.


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