Eyes or Ears: Which 'see' the soul better?

But a new study by Michael Kraus of the Yale University School of Management has found that our sense of hearing may be even stronger than our sight when it comes to accurately detecting emotion. Kraus found that we are more accurate when we hear someone’s voice than when we look only at their facial expressions, or see their face and hear their voice. In other words, you may be able to sense someone’s emotional state even better over the phone than in person.


Everyone says that your eyes are the window to your soul, but what about your ears? What about the relationship between a voice’s tone, speech pattern, or breaths? According to new research, our brains are highly sophisticated in detecting emotion through solely the voice, especially when facial expression is eliminated and a voice becomes your only means of understanding. In fact, this article argues that emotion is better detected through a phone call, than through a video conversation due to the heightened sensibility of detecting vocal nuance when only the voice is present. 

So what does this mean for storytelling? Perhaps this is one of the reasons podcasts have risen in popularity and our partners are going back to audio only, with real human-centric narratives to connect people with stories. It is interesting to read that with the rise in popularity of araul experiences, there is some science behind it. 

We like to hear a very natural human voice guide us through a narrative full of character and nuance. In fact we are able to better distinguish the emotion and meaning in their words when their face is unknown and unseen. With that being said, would this imply that the very knowledgeable institutional voice is not the most effective for an audio guide? Is connecting visitors to your institution’s story more effective when someone is talking to you more like a friend, than a teacher? Or does this research tell us that either type of voice is OK as long as the voice is as natural and as unscripted as possible? Is it even possible to have an ‘unscripted’ audio guide? 

This research is very interesting for us at Antenna, as our goal is to connect visitors to cultural stories as effectively as possible. Is implementing natural voice too risky for some institutions? Or is the kind of risk that will certainly pay off for your visitors for all the reasons researcher Michael Krause states?

Interested to hear your thoughts… 

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We make audio tours, mobile apps, multimedia guides, podcasts, interactives, and superior story-driven content for the museum and cultural sector.

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