Forensic speaker identification

We all frequently, effortlessly and accurately recognise the voices of the many people we interact with in everyday life.

However, the fact that we recognise people’s voices does not mean that we recognise people by their voices. Everyday situations include a great deal of information besides the voice to help us recognise an individual, including the context in which the voice is heard, and the content of what the speaker is saying. Read the rest now >>>

 

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Identifying a crook by his voice: The Lindbergh kidnapping

On 1 March 1932, the baby son of famous aviator Charles Lindbergh, was kidnapped from his cot. A ransom note left for the family, and $50,000 was paid. However, the child was not returned. Some months later his body was discovered in a wooded area.

Here’s how speech evidence was used in the trial – and how it ushered in an era of phonetic research. Read the rest now >>>

 

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Ear witnesses, eye witnesses and ‘ad hoc experts’

The situation regarding ear-witnesses is very similar to that of eye-witnesses. Evidence from an eye-witness who has ‘seen it with their own eyes’ is highly compelling – despite the enormous body of research demonstrating that visual perception is highly unreliable, and easily manipulated by unnoticed contextual information.

This is the reason that ‘Eyewitness misidentification is the greatest contributing factor to wrongful convictions proven by DNA testing, playing a role in more than 70% of convictions overturned through DNA testing (in the USA)’.

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The phonetics professor as an ear witness

Already by the 1970s, there was growing concern among many phonetic scientists over the courts’ reliance on ear witness testimony. One of the world’s most respected phonetics experts, the late Professor Peter Ladefoged, decided to carry out a unique experiment. Instead of testing the reliability of participants, he tested his own reliability as an ear witness. Read the rest now >>>

 

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How well can YOU identify the voices of people you know?

We all recognise the voices of friends, colleagues, families and other known people every day. In most cases, however, we have other evidence as well as as the voice. For example, even if we don’t see the person, we have many clues from the context (e.g. expecting a colleague to be in the corridor outside your room) and the content (the words they actually say). Read the rest now >>>

 

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Pseudo-science and speaker identification: The case against ‘voiceprints’

Common knowledge includes a strong belief that each person’s voice contains a ‘signature’ that can identify the speaker. It is not absolutely impossible that some such ‘signature’ might exist, but if it does, it has not yet been discovered by science.

Unfortunately, the strong belief in the existence of a unique signature for voices has left the way open for pseudo-science to take hold in the realm of speaker identification.  Read the rest now >>>

 

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A recent case involving ‘voiceprints’

Our account of voiceprints might give the impression that they are a thing of the past. That is not so. Here is an example of a case where voiceprints were used in a recent trial right here in Australia. A tiny (less than a second), faint fragment of the perpetrator’s voice had been captured in a poor quality audio recording. Read the rest now >>>

 

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