Bry­ony Payne
January 2020

Who or what orig­i­nal­ly inspired you to work in your field of research?

I’ve always been inter­est­ed in how we share our ‘selves’ with the world. Hav­ing start­ed as an under­grad­u­ate in lin­guis­tics, I ini­tial­ly looked at how our lan­guage use inter­acts with our self-iden­ti­ty. Since then, my research has become more focused not on what you say, but how you say it, and how your voice itself is an impor­tant and pow­er­ful medi­um of self-representation.

What do you work on?

I’m inter­est­ed in voic­es and self-pro­cess­ing. My research asks ques­tions about how your voice makes you, ‘you’ and recent­ly I’ve been ask­ing whether peo­ple can be given a new voice and incor­po­rate it into their self-concept.

What did you do using Gorilla, and what did you find?

We know that infor­ma­tion asso­ci­at­ed with our­selves is per­cep­tu­al­ly pri­ori­tised over infor­ma­tion asso­ci­at­ed with other peo­ple. That is, we tend to be faster and more accu­rate in per­ceiv­ing a self-relat­ed stim­u­lus than an other-relat­ed stim­u­lus, which is known as the self-pri­ori­ti­sa­tion effect. This effect has pre­vi­ous­ly been researched by Sui et al. (2012) using a per­cep­tu­al match­ing par­a­digm and, with Gorilla, we were here able to cre­ate an online ver­sion of this par­a­digm and test self-pri­ori­ti­sa­tion in voic­es for the first time.

In our tasks, peo­ple heard three unfa­mil­iar voic­es and learned who they belonged to by being told, for instance, ‘This voice belongs to you’, ‘This voice belongs to a friend’, and ‘This voice belongs to a stranger’. Once they’d learned the cor­rect pair­ings, we pre­sent­ed dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions of a voice with an iden­ti­ty label, and asked par­tic­i­pants to judge whether it was a cor­rect pair­ing, or not. If there is a self-pri­ori­ti­sa­tion effect, we’d expect to see that the voice belong­ing to them, the self-voice, would be judged more quick­ly and accu­rate­ly, rel­a­tive to either the friend-voice or the other-voice (Exper­i­ment 1).

Take a look at our study on Gorilla Open Materials

And that’s exact­ly what we found! It’s impor­tant to remem­ber, how­ev­er, that it’s not their real self-voice! All the voic­es used in this par­a­digm are unfa­mil­iar to them before they start so this pri­ori­ti­sa­tion effect shows that the new self-voice has been per­ceived as more rel­e­vant to them than the oth­ers despite being equal­ly unfamiliar.

To test what other fac­tors could influ­ence this pri­ori­ti­sa­tion, we ran two fur­ther ver­sions of the same exper­i­ment on Gorilla. In Exper­i­ment 2, we gave par­tic­i­pants a new self-voice that was more sim­i­lar to their real voice (i.e. gen­der-matched) while, in Exper­i­ment 3, we asked par­tic­i­pants to first choose which voice they want­ed to become their new self-voice.

We found a self-pri­ori­ti­sa­tion effect in all three exper­i­ments. The impact of choos­ing your voice (Exper­i­ment 3) had a greater effect on self-pri­ori­ti­sa­tion than the sim­i­lar­i­ty of phys­i­cal prop­er­ties between voice and the par­tic­i­pant (Exper­i­ment 2).

“This pri­ori­ti­sa­tion effect shows that the new self-voice has been per­ceived as more rel­e­vant to them than the oth­ers despite being equal­ly unfamiliar.”

Did you include any spe­cial fea­tures in your study to ensure good qual­i­ty data? If so, what did you do?

We used a head­phone screen­ing (designed by Woods, Siegel, Traer & McDer­mott, 2017) to check peo­ple were using head­phones while doing the study remote­ly and so ensure the audi­to­ry stim­uli were being heard prop­er­ly. We didn’t use atten­tion checks this time but did use exclu­sion cri­te­ria based on performance.

Has this study been published?

Our paper has been sub­mit­ted to a jour­nal for peer review and a preprint is cur­rent­ly avail­able here.

“You’re lim­it­ed only by what you haven’t yet realised you can do.”

What real-world prob­lem do you see that your research could impact?

If you lose the abil­i­ty to use your own voice (i.e. patients with motor neu­rone dis­ease) it can be dam­ag­ing to your sense of self and make it hard to main­tain a social iden­ti­ty. By inves­ti­gat­ing what fac­tors might aid the incor­po­ra­tion of a new, exter­nal­ly-gen­er­at­ed, voice into the self-con­cept, we hope to show that an alter­na­tive voice can quick­ly become self-rel­e­vant – espe­cial­ly when it has been cho­sen – and be sub­se­quent­ly pri­ori­tised in per­cep­tion. Our find­ings there­fore have impli­ca­tions on the design and selec­tion of indi­vid­u­at­ed syn­thet­ic voic­es that are used with assis­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion devices.

How do you think online research is going to change your field?

Quick­er test­ing with high­er recruit­ment num­bers. Plus, as long as you take some data qual­i­ty assur­ance mea­sures, such as atten­tion­al checks, an exclu­sion cri­te­ria and pilot­ing, you can get real­ly good qual­i­ty data, fast.

What is the biggest advan­tage of online research methods?

It’s so quick to col­lect data; once the study is live I can recruit and col­lect data from all par­tic­i­pants with­in a few hours!

Why did you choose Gorilla?

I’d first been intro­duced to Gorilla dur­ing my MSc and knew it was real­ly flex­i­ble, avail­able for use with audi­to­ry stim­uli, and ideal for link­ing to an online recruit­ment platform.

The flex­i­bil­i­ty that Gorilla pro­vides with such a sim­ple build process is astound­ing! It’s so adapt­able to your require­ments and you’re lim­it­ed only by what you haven’t yet realised you can do. If you ever come unstuck though, I’ve also found the Gorilla Sup­port team to be remark­ably quick to help and pro­vide solutions.

How did Gorilla make your life or research bet­ter, eas­i­er or faster?

I real­ly appre­ci­at­ed how easy it was to share the exper­i­ment with oth­ers. It was handy for me to send it with­in Gorilla to col­leagues who could con­tribute to its con­struc­tion, to send it as an email link for peo­ple to pilot or, at test, to share it via a recruit­ment plat­form for quick data collection.

On a per­son­al level, what are you most proud of?

I’ve always want­ed to do a PhD and have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to research some­thing I’m so inter­est­ed in. I’m very proud (and very grate­ful) to be where I am and also to be enjoy­ing it thanks to such a great lab team!

What advice would you give to some­one start­ing out in behav­iour­al science/research?

Learn to code! I thought cod­ing was a real­ly niche skill, but it’s so wide­ly applic­a­ble. Being able to code improved my data analy­sis, and gave me a valu­able trans­fer­able skill for industry.

I got start­ed in R while analysing Gorilla data. Hav­ing designed every ele­ment of my Gorilla exper­i­ment, it’s was far eas­i­er to under­stand what my data should look like and helped me under­stand how the code was manip­u­lat­ing my data. I also tweaked my Gorilla set up using JavaScript, as I need­ed to delay the auto­play func­tion of an audi­to­ry stim­u­lus. So I used the Gorilla script­ing tools with­in the task builder.

I’ve learnt not to be intim­i­dat­ed by cod­ing; turns out it’s fun once you’ve got started!

Bry­ony Payne
Cognitive Neuroscience
PhD student
Univeristy College London
Bryony Payne
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