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NEW STUDY: “Voice IS the most effective way to communicate emotion.”

Anyone with a background in radio or audio production will know this already: Emotion is best communicated via voice. Now science is here to back up the theory.

The American Psychological Association have just published a study by Yale School of Management that explored the “Empathic Accuracy” of messages when delivered by voice compared to other means. In other words, they sought an answer to the question: “is it easier to pick up on emotion when you hear someone talking rather than, for example, looking at them”.

Not only did the study find that voice WAS the most effective way to convey emotion, but it also concluded that “voice only” communication, where there was no visual aids or stimulation, was the most effective method of all.

These findings have huge implications when looking at Smart Speaker technology as a marketing tool.

“Voice-only communication enhances empathic accuracy above that observed in communication across senses.”
Michael W Kraus of the Yale School of Management

The study undertook 5 experiments that sought to measure the effectiveness of different communication methods and concluded that when it comes to emotional accuracy, “voice alone” is the most effective method. The study also found that the introduction of visual elements (such as a video) only acted as a distraction. A voice-only message, however, helped listeners absorb not only content but also emotional context.

The findings only serve to enhance the appearance of Smart-Speaker and Voice-First technology as a marketing tool. The study underlines the emotional connection that can be created easily between voice content and user. A better emotional connection between a consumer and a brand means a better chance of someone actually purchasing a product.

Even the most rational individual will make decisions based on emotion. We’ve all heard the phrase “Let your heart rule your head” and if a brand/business/service and communicate the right emotions then it then becomes easier to trigger the desired action. Radio sales teams have forever spoken about the “intimacy” of audio and its ability to sell like no other medium and the same rules apply here. Clear, emotive messages that are memorable to the listeners can result in influencing a potential customers decision making.

This news does come with a word of caution however for anyone wanting to take advantage of this space. It may be time to step away from Alexa (or Siri or whether automated voice-assistant is your go-to gal). One experiment used information delivered via a robotic voice (similar to those inbuilt with such voice assistants). This had a hugely negative impact on the listeners understanding of the message and their emotional connection with it. Any voice-first developer will tell you that the automated voices on Smart-Speaker devices are essential in performing many basic functions. There is also no doubt that their ability to mimic human communication and convey emotion within it is improving all the time. However, if you are looking to create that emotional connection with a potential customer then delivering certain messages with pre-recorded, human-voice audio has a huge advantage.

One thing is sure. This study demonstrates how powerful voice is when not only delivering information but also when understanding the meaning and subtext of that message.

You can read the full research paper here.

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