People with larger social networks show poorer voice recognition

Lev-Ari, S. (2022). People with larger social networks show poorer voice recognition. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 75(3), 450-460. doi:10.1177/17470218211030798.
The way we process language is influenced by our experience. We are more likely to attend to features that proved to be useful in the past. Importantly, the size of individuals’ social network can influence their experience, and consequently, how they process language. In the case of voice recognition, having a larger social network might provide more variable input and thus enhance the ability to recognise new voices. On the other hand, learning to recognise voices is more demanding and less beneficial for people with a larger social network as they have more speakers to learn yet spend less time with each. This paper tests whether social network size influences voice recognition, and if so, in which direction. Native Dutch speakers listed their social network and performed a voice recognition task. Results showed that people with larger social networks were poorer at learning to recognise voices. Experiment 2 replicated the results with a British sample and English stimuli. Experiment 3 showed that the effect does not generalise to voice recognition in an unfamiliar language suggesting that social network size influences attention to the linguistic rather than non-linguistic markers that differentiate speakers. The studies thus show that our social network size influences our inclination to learn speaker-specific patterns in our environment, and consequently, the development of skills that rely on such learned patterns, such as voice recognition.
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