Bone conduction facilitates self-other voice discrimination


One’s own voice is one of the most important and most frequently heard voices. Although it is the sound we associate most with ourselves, it is perceived as strange when played back in a recording. One of the main reasons is the lack of bone conduction that is inevitably present when hearing one’s own voice while speaking. The resulting discrepancy between experimental and natural self-voice stimuli has significantly impeded self-voice research, rendering it one of the least investigated aspects of self-consciousness. Accordingly, factors that contribute to self-voice perception remain largely unknown. In a series of three studies, we rectified this ecological discrepancy by augmenting experimental self-voice stimuli with bone-conducted vibrotactile stimulation that is present during natural self-voice perception. Combining voice morphing with psychophysics, we demonstrate that specifically self-other but not familiar-other voice discrimination improved for stimuli presented using bone as compared with air conduction. Furthermore, our data outline independent contributions of familiarity and acoustic processing to separating the own from another’s voice: although vocal differences increased general voice discrimination, self-voices were more confused with familiar than unfamiliar voices, regardless of their acoustic similarity. Collectively, our findings show that concomitant vibrotactile stimulation improves auditory self-identification, thereby portraying self-voice as a fundamentally multi-modal construct.

Royal Society Open Science