Voice Changes Meaning: The Role of Gay- Versus Straight-Sounding Voices in Sentence Interpretation

Fabio Fasoli*, Anne Maass, Rachel Karniol, Raquel Antonio, Simone Sulpizio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Utterances reveal not only semantic information but also information about the speaker’s social category membership, including sexual orientation. In four studies (N = 345), we investigated how the meaning of what is being said changes as a function of the speaker’s voice. In Studies 1a/1b, gay- and straight-sounding voices uttered the same sentences. Listeners indicated the likelihood that the speaker was referring to one among two target objects varying along gender-stereotypical characteristics. Listeners envisaged a more “feminine” object when the sentence was uttered by a gay-sounding speaker, and a more “masculine” object when the speaker sounded heterosexual. In Studies 2a/2b, listeners were asked to disambiguate sentences that involved a stereotypical behavior and were open to different interpretations. Listeners disambiguated the sentences by interpreting the action in relation to sexual-orientation information conveyed by voice. Results show that the speaker’s voice changes the subjective meaning of sentences, aligning it to gender-stereotypical expectations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)653-677
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Language and Social Psychology
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • interpersonal communication
  • message interpretation
  • sexual orientation
  • voice


Dive into the research topics of 'Voice Changes Meaning: The Role of Gay- Versus Straight-Sounding Voices in Sentence Interpretation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this