The Effects of Voice Qualities in Mindfulness Meditation Apps on Enjoyment, Relaxation State, and Perceived Usefulness
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Description: In recent years mindfulness meditation apps—which offer voice-guided exercises for relaxation—have been promoted as an effective tool for self-managing stress. This study examines how the type of voice—human male, human female, synthetic male, or synthetic female—can impact users’ levels of relaxation, perceived usefulness, and enjoyment when following a guided meditation. Participants listened to a guided meditation and then evaluated their feelings towards both the voice and the meditation exercise. Those who listened to a human voice rated the voice as more enjoyable than those who listened to a synthetic voice. Additionally, respondents in the human voice conditions rated the meditation exercise itself as more enjoyable and useful, and themselves as more relaxed than did participants guided by a synthetic voice. Finally, the effect of voice human-likeness on perceived usefulness was significantly more pronounced with female voices. These findings suggest that natural-sounding speech is preferable for individuals completing guided mindfulness exercises. In turn, to enhance users’ enjoyment and perceptions of meditation effectiveness, generated speech used in such apps should sound human-like and utilize natural speech patterns.