How Do You Say ‘Hello?’

Research Paper Title

How Do You Say ‘Hello’? Personality Impressions from Brief Novel Voices.


On hearing a novel voice, listeners readily form personality impressions of that speaker.

Accurate or not, these impressions are known to affect subsequent interactions; yet the underlying psychological and acoustical bases remain poorly understood. Furthermore, hitherto studies have focussed on extended speech as opposed to analysing the instantaneous impressions we obtain from first experience.


In this paper, through a mass online rating experiment, 320 participants rated 64 sub-second vocal utterances of the word ‘hello’ on one of 10 personality traits. The researchers show that:

  1. Personality judgements of brief utterances from unfamiliar speakers are consistent across listeners;
  2. Atwo-dimensional ‘social voice space’ with axes mapping Valence (Trust, Likeability) and Dominance, each driven by differing combinations of vocal acoustics, adequately summarises ratings in both male and female voices; and
  3. Apositive combination of Valence and Dominance results in increased perceived male vocal Attractiveness, whereas perceived female vocal Attractiveness is largely controlled by increasing Valence.


The results are discussed in relation to the rapid evaluation of personality and, in turn, the intent of others, as being driven by survival mechanisms via approach or avoidance behaviours.


These findings provide empirical bases for predicting personality impressions from acoustical analyses of short utterances and for generating desired personality impressions in artificial voices.


McAleer, P., Todorov, A. & Belin, P. (2014) How Do You Say ‘Hello’? Personality Impressions from Brief Novel Voices. PLOS One. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0090779


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