A new study on voice modulation reveals, among other things, that women can make their voices more attractive while men who try just end up doing the opposite. Is anyone surprised?
The study, ironically published in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, actually looked at four different traits that humans can attempt to convey with their voices: attractiveness, confidence, dominance, and intelligence. Using 20 male and 20 female volunteers, the researchers wanted to see how the human voice could play a role in mating and competition from an evolutionary standpoint.
Both male and female participants were able to manipulate their voices to sound more dominant and more intelligent. The authors, who are looking to correlate results with established norms of mate selection, suggest that this is because both sexes value intelligence and leadership capabilities equally in a mate.
When trying to sound more attractive, both sexes slowed their speech and women also "lowered their pitch and had greater vocal hoarseness". However, only women were perceived (by both sexes) to have succeeded in making themselves sound sexier. From an evolutionary persepective, voice attractiveness is considered to be a signifier of physical attractiveness and men on average are thought to put a greater emphasis on physical appearance as a mate selection criterion.
Interestingly, men were more successful at protraying confidence through their speech by increasing their pitch and speaking louder while women, who attempted to project confidence by speaking faster, faired less well. The researchers believe that women put a higher emphasis on a mate's earning potential and thus projection of confidence has proved to be a greater asset for males.
Now, before anyone gets too up in arms about the broad generalizations presented here, let's remember that that's what they are: generalizations. And evolution tends to be dictated by the things happening in the majority. I know YOU are not necessarily choosing your mate based on their finances or how attractive they sound on the phone, but these results suggest that, averaged over our species, the factors discussed above may have played an evolutionary role.
The whole study, The Perception and Parameters of Intentional Voice Manipulation, can be found here.