Friday, August 31, 2018

Voice Recognition In Humans

Have you ever thought about how incredible it is that we can hear a voice anywhere; on the radio, on a phone message, out of a crowd, and we know who it is?  On the face of it, it doesn’t seem that incredible.  I mean, if you know someone from their being a friend of yours, or from loving their music, or listening to their shows, you might think, “Well yeah, you hear their voice and you 'know' who it is."

But what exactly does that take?  Without doing any phonaesthetics research like any responsible writer would do, I just imagine that it takes a lot.  We humans are programmed to recognize voices and faces of other humans from our infant years, and we take it for granted.  But that skill must involve so many things at once as to seem to render this ability almost impossible.

Look at it this way.  What if you heard a dog’s bark out of a crowd.  Would you be able to recognize it as the dog that lived on your block ten or twenty years ago?  And I shouldn’t even use the example of a dog because we are pretty well programmed to distinguish them pretty well since they are definitely our best friends.  I love dogs! 

So let’s use a rhino.  If you had been around rhinos for part of your life, and then ten or twenty years later, could you recognize a rhino out of a crowd of a bunch of rhinos on a preserve?  Because that’s what you are doing at age forty-something when you hear your friend from your university dormitory twenty years prior and you immediately recognize her voice.  That is really incredible. 

Language is obviously something that humans have perfected, and I suppose that a porpoise could probably do the same thing with another porpoise it had not come into contact with since several years earlier.  We as intelligent creatures are just programmed to focus intently on those little differences in sounds and tonalities that our species create.  The differences in voices between people are probably pretty similar looking when graphed on a sound program such as ProTools or Logic X.  But our ears can distinguish the slightest differences between them.  Just amazing in my book.  Woof!