It’s not just what you say, it’s the way that you say it.
The sound of our voices, including its pitch, accent and inflection, has all sorts of subtle effects on how we are perceived by other people.
1. Familiar voices jump out
Familiar voices seem to jump out of the background hubbub automatically at us.
Participants in a recent study listened to their spouse’s voice when it was mixed up with a stranger’s voice (Johnsrude et al., 2013). They found it easier to pick out what their spouse was saying compared with the stranger.
The punch line is that people also found it much easier to ignore their spouse’s voice when they wanted to.
So, familiar voices are easier to hear, and also easier to tune out.