The acoustic correlates of valence depend on emotion family

Michel Belyk, Steven Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


The voice expresses a wide range of emotions through modulations of acoustic parameters such as frequency and amplitude. Although the acoustics of individual emotions are well understood, attempts to describe the acoustic correlates of broad emotional categories such as valence have yielded mixed results. In the present study, we analyzed the acoustics of emotional valence for different families of emotion. We divided emotional vocalizations into “motivational,” “moral,” and “aesthetic” families as defined by the OCC (Ortony, Clore, and Collins) model of emotion. Subjects viewed emotional scenarios and were cued to vocalize congruent exclamations in response to them, for example, “Yay!” and “Damn!”. Positive valence was weakly associated with high-pitched and loud vocalizations. However, valence interacted with emotion family for both pitch and amplitude. A general acoustic code for valence does not hold across families of emotion, whereas family-specific codes provide a more accurate description of vocal emotions. These findings are consolidated into a set of “rules of expression” relating vocal dimensions to emotion dimensions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523e9-523e18
JournalJournal of Voice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014


  • prosody
  • speech
  • accoustics
  • vocalization
  • valence
  • pitch
  • cognitive appraisal
  • emotion


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