usc

Algorithm Predicts Relationship Success Through Couples’ Tone Of Voice

Next Story

How Governments Will Change To Better Serve Citizens In 2016

“It’s not what you said; it’s how you said it.”

They say most of our communication is not through explicit words, and a new algorithm is able to determine the success rate of couples in relationship therapy based on the tone of their voice alone.

Researchers from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering and the University of Utah developed a computer program that listened to hundreds of conversations between more than a hundred couples during couples therapy sessions over the course of two years.

They then recorded the marital status of these couples for the next five years.

What they found was that the algorithm, which analyzed the recordings for certain speech-processing techniques — pitch, intensity, “jitter” and “shimmer” (which sound like names of Hunger Games tributes from District 1) and warbles in the voice — was able to predict whether the relationship would improve or worsen with nearly 79 percent accuracy.

In fact, the algorithm did a better job of predicting success or failure in couples with serious marital issues than analysis of therapy session descriptions from relationship experts.

The program was then tested against behavioral analyses made by human experts who had coded them for positive qualities like “acceptance” or negative qualities like “blame.” The team found that studying voice directly – rather than the expert-created behavioral codes – offered a more accurate glimpse at a couple’s future.

The general theory is that 55 percent of what you communicate is through body language, 38 percent is through tone of voice, and 7 percent is through your actual words.

The researchers who developed the algorithm eventually plan to build out programs that will look at actual language as well as body language to help aid in relationship therapy treatments.