Why We Cringe At The Sound Of Our Own Voices

Why We Cringe At The Sound Of Our Own Voices

If you’ve ever heard your own voice played back on a recording and thought “do I really sound like that?” you’re not alone. Most of us at least cringe when we hear how we sound to others, and The Science of Us explains why, and what it says about us.

Photo by Alexis Nyal.

First, the reason why we sound different to ourselves then when we hear ourselves recorded is due to the physiology of our skull. When we hear our own voices, we hear it through an “extra” set of speakers as it were — bone conduction. More specifically:

This is known as bone conduction, meaning that when your vocal cords vibrate to produce speech, that movement also causes the bones of the skull to vibrate, and this, too, is registered in the cochlea. Bone conduction transmits lower frequencies as compared to air conduction, so this is one reason why your voice sounds so unfamiliar when it’s played back to you. When you hear the sound through your own head, your brain perceives it as being lower-pitched than it really is, because the transmission via the skull made it sound that way.

So, sadly, when we hear our voices played back to us, it’s how everyone else hears us. Yikes — but why do we cringe at the unfamiliarity of our own voices?

But you could think of a cringe as a shock of self-consciousness. Some psychologists and philosophers see a divide between the experience of the “lived body” and the “corporeal body,” and argue that emotions that elicit self-consciousness cause the two to collide.
…Put another way: Most of the time, most of us live inside our own heads, imagining that the person we believe we are presenting to the world is indeed the person that the world sees. Cringeworthy moments yank us out of that fantasy, forcing us to at least briefly take an outsider’s view of ourselves.

The next time you remember that thing you did that was so embarrassing it just makes you shiver or start talking to yourself to try and pave over the thought in your head, well, that’s why. The Science of Us goes on to explain that if you don’t cringe — or don’t have a problem at all with hearing your own voice, you may either have higher self-esteem than many of us, be better at handling that multiple-perspective approach to life, or, just maybe, you’re just used to it.

The whole piece is well worth a read, and packed with studies and citations on all of this phenomena. Hit the link below to check it all out.

What Cringing at Your Own Dumb Voice Reveals About You [The Science of Us]

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