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  Life   More Features  30 Aug 2018  Teenagers tend to misunderstand tone of voice, suggests study

Teenagers tend to misunderstand tone of voice, suggests study

Published : Aug 30, 2018, 3:34 pm IST
Updated : Aug 30, 2018, 3:34 pm IST

A new study has found teens could read the emotions of adults without difficulty but struggled to understand the expressions of their peers.

Representational Image. (Photo: Pixabay)
 Representational Image. (Photo: Pixabay)

Washington: Understanding somebody's tone of voice is as it is tricky for everybody and it becomes even more complicated for teenagers, who are going through physical and emotional changes.

According to a recent research, the ability to understand what someone is feeling, based on their tone of voice can be challenging for mid-adolescents (between 13-15 years of age). Teens are far less able to understand what is going on with their peers, particularly when it comes to tones of voice which express anger, meanness, disgust, or happiness.

Michele Morningstar, the first author of the paper said, "Our results suggest that teenagers have not yet reached maturity in either their ability to identify vocal emotions, or to express them. This means that teenagers face quite a challenge in their social spheres. They must interpret poorly expressed cues with immature recognition skills. Understanding how we learn emotional communication skills will be important to help teenagers who struggle socially."

As part of the study, the researchers played a total of 140 recordings made by child and adult actors to 50 teens between 13-15 years old and to 86 adults between the ages of 18-30. The recordings were of neutral phrases such as "I can't believe you just did that" which could be expressed with various intonations to convey different feelings.

Participants of all ages were asked to select the emotion being conveyed in each recording, choosing from five basic emotions, anger, disgust, fear, happiness, and sadness, and from social expressions of affiliation (friendliness) or hostility (meanness).

The results showed a clear divide at different levels. The adults had no trouble, generally, reading the emotions of their peers, and had relatively few problems discerning the emotions of the teens. Teens, on the other hand, could read the emotions of the adults without difficulty but struggled to understand the expressions of their peers.

A previous research suggests that one reason for this may be that teens are less able than adults to produce recognizable emotions with their voices. Adults' greater skill at recognizing emotion may become more apparent when trying to decode these more challenging signals.

The full findings are present in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior.

Tags: behaviour, teenagers, communication skills, emotions