Human Voice Response to Stress

Here is an excerpt from a National Transportation Safety Board Aircraft Accident Report…

Research has shown that fundamental frequency (pitch) can convey information
about a speaker’s psychological stress.

With regard to fundamental frequency, the Safety Board used the following guidelines from two previous accident investigations to evaluate the approximate degree of psychological stress experienced by a pilot and its effect on performance:

• An increase in fundamental frequency by about 30 percent (compared with that individual’s speech in a relaxed condition) is characteristic of stage 1 level of stress, which could result in the speaker’s focused attention and improved
performance.

• An increase in fundamental frequency by about 50 to 150 percent is
characteristic of stage 2 level of stress, which could result in the speaker’s
performance being hasty and abbreviated and thus degraded; however, the
speaker’s performance would not likely display gross mistakes.

• An increase in fundamental frequency by about 100 to 200 percent is
characteristic of stage 3 level of stress, or panic, which would likely result in
the speaker’s inability to think or function logically or productively.

Reference:

http://libraryonline.erau.edu/online-full-text/ntsb/aircraft-accident-reports/AAR04-04.pdf

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