Have you ever heard a recording of your voice, and thought “Holy crap! Is that what I sound like?” Everyone else’s voice sounds fine when recorded, but yours sounds strange, different. I remember hearing once that our voices echoes in our skulls, and therefore they sound different to us than they do to others. So when we hear our own answer phone messages, we cringe (especially if it’s one of those cheesy singing messages).
But ever notice that other people don’t really mention your voice sounding different? This ties in with the finding that your social skills aren’t as bad as you think they are. A research team in Stockholm looked into this. They had students record a short story, and then rate their performance of the reading with a Voice Evaluation Questionnaire. The students also completed a questionnaire measuring how socially anxious they were. After the students had left, an independent rater listened to the tape recordings, and rated them on an equivalent Voice Evaluation Questionnaire.
The researchers were trying to discover whether social anxiety correlated with the self-evaluation of the reading, or the independent evaluation. If the anxiety scale correlated with the self-report, but not the observer report, it would mean our negative views on our own voices are only apparent to ourselves. If the anxiety scale correlated with the observer report, it would mean that the anxiety is coming through in our voices – it’s noticed by others.
Happily, the results indicated the former – to us, our voices sound weird, but other people don’t notice anything. So this distorted perception of our own voices is more to do with our own anxieties, and little to do with other peoples’ judgement. Good news, then. I’m not sure whether the reason our voices sound worse to ourselves is because they echo in our skulls or not, but it’s all in our heads either way.
Lundh, L., Berg, B., Johansson H., Nilsson, L.K., Sandberg, J., & Segerstedt, A. (2002). Social Anxiety is Associated with a Negatively Distorted Perception of One’s Own Voice. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy 31(1), 25–30