Published:  2023-03-29

Acoustic and Prosodic Speech Features Reflect Physiological Stress but not Isolated Negative Affect: A Multi-Paradigm Study on Psychosocial Stressors

Authors:  Mitchel Kappen, Gert Vanhollebeke, Jonas Donckt, Sofie Hoecke, Marie Vanderhasselt


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Heterogeneity in speech under stress has been a recurring issue in stress research, potentially due to varied stress induction paradigms. This study investigated speech features in semi-guided speech following two distinct psychosocial stress paradigms (Cyberball and MIST) and their respective control conditions. Only negative affect increased during Cyberball, while self-reported stress, skin conductance response rate, and negative affect increased during MIST. Fundamental frequency (F0), speech rate, and jitter significantly changed during MIST, but not Cyberball; HNR and shimmer showed no expected changes. The results indicate that observed speech features are robust in semi-guided speech and sensitive to stressors eliciting additional physiological stress responses, not solely decreases in negative affect. These differences between stressors may explain literature heterogeneity. Our findings support the potential of speech as a stress level biomarker, especially when stress elicits physiological reactions, similar to other biomarkers. This highlights its promise as a tool for measuring stress in everyday settings, considering its affordability, non-intrusiveness, and ease of collection. Future research should test these results’ robustness and specificity in naturalistic settings, such as freely spoken speech and noisy environments while exploring and validating a broader range of informative speech features in the context of stress.