Gender-Ambiguous Voices and Social Disfluency

Mohsenin, Shahryar and Kurt P. Munz (In Press) , "Gender-Ambiguous Voices and Social Disfluency," Psychological Science, forthcoming.

  2021 Bocconi Junior Research Grant

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Recently, gender-ambiguous (non-binary) voices have been added to voice assistants to combat gender stereotypes and foster inclusion. However, if people react negatively to such voices, these laudable efforts may be counterproductive. In five preregistered studies (N = 3,684) we find that people do react negatively, rating products described by narrators with gender-ambiguous voices less favorably than when they are described by clearly male or female narrators. The voices create a feeling of unease, what we call social disfluency, that affects evaluations of the products being described. These effects are best explained by low familiarity with voices that sound ambiguous. Thus, initial negative reactions can be overcome with more exposure.