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Experimental evidence that women speak in a higher voice pitch to men they find attractive

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Although humans can raise and lower their voice pitch, it is not known whether such alterations can function to increase the likelihood of attracting preferred mates. Because men find higher-pitched women’s voices more attractive, the voice pitch with which women speak to men may depend on the strength of their attraction to those men. Here, we measured voice pitch when women left voicemail messages for men with masculinized and feminized faces. We found that the difference in women’s voice pitch between these two conditions positively correlated with the strength of their preference for the masculinized versus feminized faces, whereby women tended to speak with a higher voice pitch to the face they found more attractive. Speaking with a higher voice pitch when talking to men they wish to attract may function to reduce the amount of mating effort that women expend in order to attract and retain preferred mates.
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Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 2011, 57-67
DOI: 10.1556/JEP.9.2011.33.1
1789-2082 © 2011 Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest
EXPERIMENTAL EVIDENCE THAT WOMEN SPEAK
IN A HIGHER VOICE PITCH TO MEN THEY FIND
ATTRACTIVE
PAUL J. FRACCARO1, BENEDICT C. JONES1, JOVANA VUKOVIC1,
FINLAY G. SMITH1, CHRISTOPHER D. WATKINS1, DAVID R. FEINBERG2,
ANTHONY C. LITTLE3, LISA M. DEBRUINE1,*
1 University of Aberdeen
2 McMaster University
3 University of Stirling
Abstract. Although humans can raise and lower their voice pitch, it is not known whether such
alterations can function to increase the likelihood of attracting preferred mates. Because men find
higher-pitched women’s voices more attractive, the voice pitch with which women speak to men
may depend on the strength of their attraction to those men. Here, we measured voice pitch when
women left voicemail messages for masculinized and feminized versions of a prototypical male
face. We found that the difference in women’s voice pitch between these two conditions posi-
tively correlated with the strength of their preference for masculinized versus feminized male
faces, whereby women tended to speak with a higher voice pitch to the type of face they found
more attractive (masculine or feminine). Speaking with a higher voice pitch when talking to the
type of man they find most attractive may function to reduce the amount of mating effort that
women expend in order to attract and retain preferred mates.
Keywords: voice, attractiveness, sexual dimorphism, sexual selection, mate choice
INTRODUCTION
Many studies have demonstrated that men prefer high pitch in women’s voices
(COLLINS and MISSING 2003; FEINBERG et al. 2008a; JONES et al. 2008a, 2010a).
For example, men’s attractiveness ratings of women’s voices are positively corre-
lated with voice pitch (COLLINS and MISSING 2003; FEINBERG et al. 2008a). Men
also prefer female voices manipulated to have raised pitch to those manipulated to
have lowered pitch (FEINBERG et al. 2008a; JONES et al. 2008a, 2010a; APICELLA
and FEINBERG 2009), indicating that voice pitch is a direct cue to female voice at-
tractiveness (FEINBERG et al. 2008a; JONES et al. 2008a, 2010a). High voice pitch in
women may indicate fertility, as it is positively correlated with variation in concep-
tion risk during the menstrual cycle (BRYANT and HASELTON 2009) and with aver-
age (i.e., trait) estrogen levels (ABITBOL et al. 1999; FEINBERG et al. 2006).
* Corresponding author: LISA M. DEBRUINE, Phone: 01224 272243; E-mail:
l.debruine@abdn.ac.uk
PAUL J. FRACCARO et al.
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58
Women’s voice pitch is also positively correlated with other physical characteristics
that are thought to be indices of women’s reproductive health, such as facial femi-
ninity and attractiveness (FEINBERG et al. 2005). Additionally, ratings of women’s
vocal attractiveness, which is highly correlated with their voice pitch (COLLINS and
MISSING 2003; FEINBERG et al. 2008a), are negatively correlated with their waist-
hip ratio (HUGHES et al. 2004), and positively correlated with body symmetry
(HUGHES et al. 2002), conception risk during the menstrual cycle (PIPITONE and
GALLUP 2008), and various indices of their reproductive potential (HUGHES et al.
2004). This evidence has lead many researchers to suggest that women’s voices,
and their voice pitch in particular, may signal their mate quality (BRYANT and
HASELTON 2009; FEINBERG et al. 2008a; JONES et al. 2008a, 2010; VUKOVIC et al.
2010; see FEINBERG 2008 for a review). Consistent with this proposal, men demon-
strate stronger preferences for raised pitch in women’s voices than do women
(FEINBERG et al. 2008a; JONES et al. 2008a, 2010a).
Although men prefer high voice pitch to low voice pitch in women (COLLINS
and MISSING 2003; FEINBERG et al. 2008a; JONES et al. 2008, 2010a) and there are
physiological constraints on vocal range, voice pitch is not a fixed trait (TITZE
1994). For example, singing different musical notes is an example of deliberate ma-
nipulation of voice pitch (TITZE 1994). Similarly, the voice pitch of a speaker can
change depending on the listener. For example, speakers tend to raise their voice
pitch when they are speaking to an infant (e.g., FERNALD and SIMON 1984; GRIE-
SER and KUHL 1988), match their voice pitch to conversation partners who are
higher in social status (GREGORY 1996), and speak with lower pitch when leaving
voicemail messages for physically attractive individuals as part of a survey into atti-
tudes to psychology (HUGHES et al. 2010). Additionally, men who perceive them-
selves to be more dominant than a competitor lower their voice pitch when speaking
to him, while men who perceive themselves to be less dominant than a competitor
raise their voice pitch when speaking to him (PUTS et al. 2006). While these find-
ings demonstrate that speakers can alter their voice pitch according to the social
context, no previous research has investigated the possible effects of courtship sce-
narios on women’s voice pitch.
Given that men prefer high-pitched voices to low-pitched voices in women
(COLLINS and MISSING 2003; FEINBERG et al. 2008a; JONES et al. 2008a, 2010a),
and that voice pitch can change in response to social contexts (e.g., FERNALD and
SIMON 1984; GREGORY 1996; GRIESER and KUHL 1988), women may alter their
voice pitch in mating contexts. While the effect of mating contexts on women’s
voice pitch has not been experimentally investigated, other aspects of behaviour
have been shown to change in response to courtship scenarios. For example, the
number, duration, size, speed, and complexity of women’s body movements co-
vary with their interest in a partner during a dyadic interaction (GRAMMER et al.
1999) and women’s hormone levels also change in response to interacting with an
attractive man in ways that are consistent with increased sexual motivation (LÓPEZ
et al. 2009).
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JEP 9(2011)1
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In light of the above, we tested the hypothesis that women’s voice pitch will
co-vary with their attraction to the type of man they are speaking to in a mating
context. We asked women to read a scripted message as if they were leaving a
voicemail message to arrange a date with each of two pictured men. These two men
were represented by a prototypical (i.e., composite) male face that had been ma-
nipulated in shape masculinity using well-established computer graphic methods
(see, e.g., DEBRUINE et al. 2006; JONES et al. 2005). Additionally, we assessed the
extent to which women preferred masculinity in the male faces that were shown in
the voice recording part of the experiment (i.e., ‘seen’ faces) and also in a set of
male faces that were not shown in the voice recording part of the experiment (i.e.,
‘unseen’ faces). We then tested if the difference in voice pitch between the voice-
mail left for a masculine man and the voicemail left for a relatively feminine man
was positively correlated with the extent to which women preferred masculine to
feminine male faces.
This method has three main advantages over other possible methods. First, it is
important to have variation in preferences for the faces in order to distinguish
whether women’s voice pitch is associated with their preferences or with some
other aspect of the faces that is correlated with attractiveness. For example, if all
women prefer the same attractive faces in a sample, one could not distinguish
whether women speak with a higher pitch to faces they prefer or whether they speak
in a higher pitch to faces that have some characteristic correlated with attractive-
ness. Because systematic variation in preferences for shape masculinity has been
widely demonstrated (FEINBERG et al. 2008a; JONES et al. 2008b; LITTLE et al.
2001; PENTON-VOAK et al. 1999, 2003; RHODES 2006), manipulating masculinity
(rather than attractiveness) ensures a spread of preference data that will allow us to
correlate preferences (rather than physical characteristics of faces) with vocal re-
sponses. In doing so, we can directly link vocal responses to attraction, rather than
attractiveness. This approach is modeled after a paradigm commonly used in neuro-
psychology, where correlations between individual differences in behavioural and
neurobiological responses are used to clarify the role of specific brain regions in
specific behaviours (e.g., CALDER et al. 2007). Second, recording scripted messages
left to only a small number of faces (see also HUGHES et al. 2010) avoids participant
fatigue, since repeating the scripted sentence many times would be tiring and have
very low ecological validity. Unscripted recordings could be used in order to reduce
fatigue and increase ecological validity, but since prosody varies depending on the
sentence spoken, using a scripted message (rather than allowing participants to
spontaneously generate their own) eliminates prosodic variation in pitch between
different messages. Third, manufacturing stimuli from composite images ensures
that stimuli are optimally representative of the intended category (TIDDEMAN et al.
2001), which is especially important when using a small number of stimuli (CON-
WAY et al. 2008). Indeed, this is why manipulated composite images have been
used as stimuli in various studies of physiological and behavioural responses to
faces (e.g., CONWAY et al. 2008; PERRETT et al. 1998; van LEEUWEN et al. 2009).
PAUL J. FRACCARO et al.
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60
METHODS
Participants
Forty-five female undergraduate students (age: M = 20.2 years, SD = 3.32) at the
University of Aberdeen participated in return for course credit. Only women report-
ing no use of hormonal contraceptives were tested in light of recent research sug-
gesting that hormonal contraceptive use may disrupt potentially adaptive behaviors
and preferences (e.g., FEINBERG et al. 2008b; LITTLE et al. 2002; PUTS 2006; ROB-
ERTS et al. 2008; VUKOVIC et al. 2008), as well as altering voice pitch (AMIR et al.
2002).
Face stimuli
Following previous studies of perceptions of feminine and masculine faces (DE-
BRUINE et al. 2006; JONES et al. 2007), prototype-based image transformations were
used to objectively and systematically manipulate sexual dimorphism of 2D shape
in digital face images. Although other methods have been used to manipulate mas-
culinity in face images (e.g., JOHNSTON et al. 2001), these methods have been
shown to produce effects that are equivalent to those produced using the methods
employed in our current study (DEBRUINE et al. 2006, 2010).
First, male and female prototype (i.e., average) faces were manufactured using
established computer graphic methods that have been used widely in other studies
of face perception (e.g., DEBRUINE et al. 2006; JONES et al. 2007, 2010b). Proto-
types are composite images that are constructed by averaging the shape, color and
texture of a group of faces, such as male or female faces. These prototypes can then
be used to transform images by calculating the vector differences in position be-
tween corresponding points on two prototype images and changing the position of
the corresponding points on a third image by a given percentage of these vectors
(see ROWLAND and PERRETT 1995; TIDDEMAN et al. 2001 for technical details).
Here, prototypes were manufactured using images of 24 young adult white men and
24 young adult white women (JONES et al. 2010b).
Next, following JONES et al. (2010b), 75% of the linear differences in 2D
shape between symmetrized versions of the male and female prototypes were added
to or subtracted from the male prototype image. This process created a masculinized
and feminized version of the male prototype face (Figure 1), which were shown in
the voicemail recording part of the experiment. These faces are referred to hereon
as the ‘seen’ faces. Following DEBRUINE et al. (2006), masculinized and feminized
versions of a further 10 face images of individual young adult white men were also
manufactured by adding or subtracting 50% of the linear differences in 2D shape
between symmetrized versions of the male and female prototypes from the individ-
ual images. These faces are referred to hereon as the ‘unseen’ faces, because they
were not presented during the voicemail recording part of the experiment and were
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JEP 9(2011)1
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only used to assess women’s preferences for masculinized versus feminized ver-
sions of male faces. Previous studies have demonstrated that masculinized versions
are perceived as more masculine, more dominant, and physically stronger than the
feminized versions (e.g., DEBRUINE et al. 2006; JONES et al. 2010b; WELLING et al.
2007), confirming that using these methods to manipulate face shape affects percep-
tions of masculinity in the intended manner.
Figure 1. The feminized (left) and masculinized (right) protoype faces
Procedure
There were three parts to the experiment: voicemail recording, masculinity prefer-
ence test for seen faces (i.e., those shown during the voicemail recording part), and
a masculinity preference test for unseen faces (i.e., faces that were not shown dur-
ing the voicemail recording part). The order in which participants completed these
parts was fully randomized.
In the voicemail recording part of the experiment, the participant was shown
the masculinized prototype face and left a voicemail message for him and, in a
separate trial, was shown the feminized prototype face and left a voicemail message
for him. The order of these trials was randomized between participants. On each
trial, participants were shown the face image of one of the men (i.e., the masculin-
ized or feminized prototype) along with the following instructions: “You met this
person in a bar last night and he gave you his number. You called him tonight, but
he’s not home. Read the text below to leave a voicemail.” The participant then read
aloud the following text: “Hi, we met at the bar last night. I was just calling you to
see if you wanted to go out sometime. Call me back.” These messages were re-
PAUL J. FRACCARO et al.
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corded using an Audio-Technica AT4041 microphone in a quiet room using Quick-
time recording software, in mono, and at a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz with 16-bit
amplitude quantization.
In the masculinity preference test for seen faces, participants were shown the
masculinized and feminized prototype face images and asked to indicate which one
was more attractive and the strength of this preference on a scale from 0 to 7 (0 =
feminine face rated as much more attractive than the masculine face, 7 = masculine
face rated as much more attractive than the feminine face). This face pair was pre-
sented within a block of unrelated trials consisting of other face pairs that did not
differ in masculinity (i.e., filler trials).
The masculinity preference test for unseen faces was identical to that for seen
faces, except that the 10 pairs of masculinized and feminized versions of the indi-
vidual male faces (i.e., the unseen faces) were presented in a fully randomized or-
der. We calculated the strength of masculinity preference for each participant by
averaging scores on the 0 to 7 scale for the 10 pairs of faces in this sample.
Acoustic Analysis of Voice Recordings
Voices were analyzed for pitch using the autocorrelation function in Praat
(BOERSMA and WEENINK 2009), using parameters described elsewhere (FEINBERG
et al. 2008a). Mean voice pitch directed to the masculinized man was 222.8 Hz (SD
= 28.3). Mean voice pitch directed to the feminized man was 224.1 Hz (SD = 24.8).
RESULTS
Initial analyses were conducted using ANCOVA. The dependent variable was
strength of masculinity preference, the within-subjects factor was masculinity pref-
erence test version (seen faces, unseen faces), and the covariate was difference in
voice pitch. Difference in voice pitch was calculated by subtracting the pitch di-
rected to the feminine face from the pitch directed to the masculine face and ranged
from –40.9 Hz to 26.5 Hz (M = –1.28 Hz, SD = 13.9 Hz; unsigned M = 10.5 Hz, SD
= 9.18 Hz). All variables were normally distributed (all Kolmogorov-Smirnov Z <
1.03, all p > .24).
The ANCOVA revealed a significant main effect of difference in voice pitch
(F1,43 = 5.58, p = .023), whereby the strength of masculinity preference was posi-
tively correlated with average voice pitch (r = .34, p = .023, N = 45; Figure 2).
There was no effect of masculinity preference test version (F1,43 = 0.23, p = .63).
There was also no interaction between masculinity preference test version and dif-
ference in voice pitch (F1,43 = 2.37, p = .13), which indicates that difference in voice
pitch was equally well correlated with both versions of the masculinity preference
test.
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Figure 2. Difference in voice pitch (i.e. pitch to masculine face minus pitch to feminine face) was
positively correlated with the strength of preference for masculine faces, averaged over both
masculinity preference tests. A positive difference in voice pitch indicates greater pitch towards
the masculine than the feminine face, and a negative difference in voice pitch indicates greater
pitch towards the feminine than the masculine face
DISCUSSION
In order to test whether women modulate their voice pitch in response to men’s fa-
cial attractiveness in a mating context, we recorded women leaving a voicemail
message to arrange a date with each of two versions of a composite face that dif-
fered in facial masculinity. We also measured women’s preference for the mascu-
line versus feminine prototype faces and their preferences for masculinity in a sam-
ple of individual male faces that were not shown in the voicemail recording part of
the experiment. We found that the extent to which women preferred masculine
faces, irrespective of whether preferences were assessed using faces that were or
were not presented during the voicemail recording part of the experiment, was posi-
tively correlated with the extent to which they spoke with a higher voice pitch when
leaving a voicemail for the masculine man than when leaving a voicemail for the
relatively feminine man. As we had predicted, women tended to speak with a higher
voice pitch to the type of man that they found more attractive; women who demon-
strated a particularly strong preference for masculine men tended to speak with
PAUL J. FRACCARO et al.
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64
higher voice pitch to the masculine man and women who demonstrated a particu-
larly strong preference for feminine men tended to speak with higher voice pitch to
the feminine man (see Figure 2).
Because our study is correlational, the magnitude of differences in pitch is de-
pendent on the strength of preference for the masculinized versus feminized faces.
Therefore, the exact magnitude of pitch differences to preferred and non-preferred
men remains unclear. However, the 20% of women with the strongest masculinity
preference spoke to the masculine face with a voice pitch on average 6.7 Hz higher
than to the feminine face, while the 20% of women with the strongest femininity
preference spoke to the feminine face with a voice pitch on average 6.6 Hz higher
than to the masculine face. Because the just noticeable difference for change in
voice pitch is ~3Hz (STEVENS 1998), in our paradigm, women with strong prefer-
ences for one face spoke to him with a detectably higher voice pitch. Further work
is needed to establish whether attraction-contingent vocal responses in more ecol-
ogically valid settings are also detectable.
Since men show strong preferences for women’s voices with raised pitch
(COLLINS and MISSING 2003; FEINBERG et al. 2008a; JONES et al. 2008a, 2010a;
APICELLA and FEINBERG 2009), speaking with higher voice pitch to men that they
find particularly attractive may function to increase women’s attractiveness to pre-
ferred potential mates. Moreover, such facultative responses may help women to
optimize the effort that they expend in order to attract and retain preferred mates.
Our experimental finding that women’s voice pitch is higher when talking to men
that they find particularly attractive complements findings from observational stud-
ies showing that women’s proceptive behavior is modulated by their interest in the
man with whom they are interacting (GRAMMER et al. 1999). Importantly, however,
previous research showing that men and women speak with lower pitch when leav-
ing voicemail messages for physically attractive individuals as part of a survey into
attitudes to psychology (HUGHES et al. 2010), suggests that the effect of male at-
tractiveness on women’s voice pitch that was observed in our experiment may be
relatively specific to mating contexts. Our results also compliment findings from a
recent study showing that men’s preferences for cues of proceptivity in women’s
voices are enhanced when voice pitch is raised (JONES et al. 2008a). We note here
that we do not suggest that there is anything about masculinity specifically that will
be particularly important for the modulation of women’s vocal responses in mating
contexts and suggest that similar attraction-contingent vocal responses are likely to
occur when other attractive characteristics are manipulated.
Previous research has shown that raised pitch in women’s voices is attractive
(COLLINS and MISSING 2003; FEINBERG et al. 2008a; JONES et al. 2008a, 2010a;
APICELLA and FEINBERG 2009), particularly to men (FEINBERG et al. 2008a; JONES
et al. 2008a, 2010a). Here we present experimental evidence that women modulate
their voice pitch as a facultative response that may function to reduce the amount of
mating effort they must expend in order to attract and retain preferred mates. While
previous research has emphasized the importance of women’s context-free voice
EXPERIMENTAL EVIDENCE THAT WOMEN SPEAK IN A HIGHER VOICE PITCH TO MEN THEY FIND...
JEP 9(2011)1
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pitch for their attractiveness and mating behavior (e.g., COLLINS and MISSING 2003;
FEINBERG et al. 2008a; JONES et al. 2008a, 2010a; APICELLA and FEINBERG 2009),
our findings emphasize the context-sensitivity of women’s voice pitch and the pos-
sible effects of this context-sensitivity on men’s perceptions of their mate value. By
raising their voice pitch when speaking to men they consider attractive, women may
increase their attractiveness to preferred mates while avoiding expending mating ef-
fort on non-preferred mates, potentially increasing their reproductive success.
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... Studies using this methodology have found that women modulate their voice when leaving messages for attractive men. Specifically, after being presented with facial images of masculine and feminine men, women speak with higher (Fraccaro et al., 2011) or lower voice pitch (Hughes et al., 2010) when leaving a message for attractive men. These conflicting results suggest that providing mating context during voice recordings may be important. ...
... The only result partially consistent with the original hypothesis concerns the higher pitch found during the fertile phase among partnered women when the message was directed to a femininized man, compared to a feminized woman. Given that feminized men were perceived as more attractive than masculinized men in the present study and in previous studies (e.g., de Lurdes Carrito et al., 2016;Little & Hancock, 2002), and that women tend to increase their pitch when interacting with attractive men (e.g., Fraccaro et al., 2011), it might be that women tended to increase their own attractiveness when recording a message for a feminized man in the fertile phase. However, it is important to note that this effect resulted from testing higher-order four-way interaction effect (see online Supplementary material). ...
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Objective Research has demonstrated that men prefer women’s voices with higher pitch and that women’s voices recorded at high compared to low fertility phases of the menstrual cycle are rated as more attractive. These findings suggest that voice conveys information relevant to reproductive success. Because voice attractiveness is higher during the high fertility phase and voice pitch positively predicts attractiveness ratings, it has been hypothesized that cyclical changes in vocal attractiveness are driven by changes in voice pitch. However, attempts to detect acoustic changes have produced mixed results. With the higher degree of ecological validity achieved by including social context (simulated interactions with men and women) and by recording voice in the three phases of menstrual cycles, the present study addresses limitations of previous research. Methods Forty-eight naturally cycling women were recorded during the menstrual, late follicular (high fertility), and luteal phases while leaving voice messages to masculinized and femininized men and women. Results No cycle-related changes in pitch and pitch variability for the recordings directed to masculinized and femininized men and women were detected. By including relationship status as predictor in additional models, higher-order interaction effects showed that single and partnered women displayed opposite cycle-related pitch changes directed only to women, but not men. Conclusion The cycle-related voice changes found in the present study do not support the hypothesis that cyclic pitch variations represent an adaptive mechanism for attracting partners. We discuss cyclic changes in voice pitch in relation to intrasexual competition by taking into an account that the present study is likely underpowered for adequate testing of the complex higher-order interactions.
... Yet, human voices are more attractive to the opposite sex if they are low frequency in males, but high frequency in females (Apicella & Feinberg, 2009); females raise their voice pitch when speaking to males they find attractive (Fraccaro et al., 2011). Research on factors influencing the frequency of non-human animal vocalisations typically focuses on males, and little is known about whether these factors differ between the sexes. ...
... Alternatively, female magpie-larks may also be signalling attraction to males with lower frequency songs. In humans, males prefer females with high pitch voices (Feinberg et al., 2008;Jones et al., 2010), and females are more likely to raise the pitch of their voice when speaking to a male they find attractive (Fraccaro et al., 2011). ...
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Male signals that advertise dominance are often also attractive to females, but female signals advertising dominance can make them less attractive to males. For example, in species where males are larger than females, low-frequency male vocalisations are expected to be selected by intra-sexual selection, inter-sexual selection and selection to identify sex, but these selective forces may act antagonistically on female vocalisations. Consistent with this, low-pitch human voices can be perceived as more dominant in both sexes and more attractive to the opposite sex in males, but less attractive to the opposite sex in females. Research on factors influencing the frequency of animal vocalisations has largely focused on males, and little is known about the drivers of variation in vocal pitch between sexes in animals. We tested for sex differences in a species where both sexes sing, the Australian magpie-lark (Grallina cyanleuca), by simulating a territorial intruder with experimentally manipulated high- or low-pitched playback songs. Both sexes sang significantly sooner and alarm called more in response to low-frequency playback, regardless of the sex of the ‘intruder’, suggesting that both sexes perceived low-frequency songs as more threatening. However, there were sex differences in how males and females changed their song frequencies in response to playback. Males sang at a lower frequency to low-pitched male than female playback. In contrast, females sang songs with a significantly higher frequency in response to low- than high-pitched male playback. Our results highlight that selection may act differently on song frequency in male and female birds.
... Voice modulations can increase the prospect of attracting preferred partners, for two reasons. First, the characteristics of an attractive voice can, at least to a certain extent, be imitated or exaggerated (Fraccaro et al., 2011;Leongómez et al., 2014). Second, they exploit the fact that, just like faces and odours, some voices are judged to be relatively more attractive than others. ...
... Voice modulation, and specifically vocal modulation during courtship, is a complex phenomenon that has gained increasing interest in recent years (e.g. Farley et al., 2013;Fraccaro et al., 2013Fraccaro et al., , 2011Hughes et al., 2010;Leongómez et al., 2014;Pisanski et al., 2018; for a review see Hughes and Puts, 2021), with important implications for our understanding of vocal communication (Leongómez et al., 2021a,b). Understanding what voice parameters are modulated, in which direction, and what social and perceptual effects these modulations have, are still matters of debate that call for more research. ...
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Voice characteristics are important to communicate socially relevant information. Recent research has shown that individuals alter their voices depending on the context of social interactions and perceived characteristics of the audience, and this affects how they are perceived. Numerous studies have also shown that the presence of bodily odours can elicit psychological changes in people. Here, we tested whether the presence of male axillary odour would influence vocal modulations in courtship contexts. We analysed differences in vocal parameters and attractiveness ratings across 950 recordings from 80 participants as they responded to opposite-sex target stimuli. Using these, we tested whether men’s and women’s vocal parameters and perceived attractiveness differed in the presence or absence of the odour. We expected women to speak with increased voice F0, and men to lower their pitch, when exposed to male body odour, especially if it were of high quality. However, neither the presence of male odour, its quality, nor the addition of androstadienone produced any consistent changes in vocal parameters. Nevertheless, rated stimulus attractiveness was predicted by F0 and especially F0 variability, suggesting that this is a key parameter in signalling attraction during human courtship, and supporting the idea that vocal modulations are context-sensitive.
... These results complement previous research in which heterosexual men's preferences for feminine characteristics in women's faces and voices were positively correlated (Fraccaro et al., 2010), and suggest that, regardless of sexual orientation, those who preferred feminized features in one domain also tended to prefer feminized features in other domains. Masculine/feminine perceptions can be affected by modifying voices (Fraccaro et al., 2011;Hughes et al., 2010) and faces (Campbell et al., Fig. 2 Differences among sexual self-label group preference for voice pitch, VTL, faces and personality traits. ***p < 0.001, *p < 0.05 Table 4 Correlations among preferences for femininity across multiple domains * p < 0.05; **p < 0.01; ***p < 0.001 ...
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Studies indicate that individuals preferring masculinity/femininity in one domain also prefer it in other domains. Heterosexual men and women and gay men have reported consistent preferences for masculinity/femininity across the faces and voices of their preferred sex. This study explored the femininity preferences of 417 Chinese lesbian and bisexual women in terms of face, voice pitch, vocal tract length, and personality traits and explored the effect of sexual self-labels (femme, butch, and androgyne) on these preferences. We found that lesbian and bisexual women showed a stronger preference for feminized faces, voice pitch, vocal tract length, and personality traits than masculinized versions, and these preferences were highly consistent across the four domains. Moreover, femininity preference was moderated by sexual self-labels, with butches preferring more feminine voice pitch, vocal tract length, and personality traits than femmes and androgynes. However, no significant difference was found for facial femininity preferences among different sexual self-labels. These findings present evidence of consistent femininity preference across visual, auditory, and personality traits and suggest that, regardless of sexual orientation, multiple cues may be used together when determining the attractiveness of individuals. Furthermore, these results support the hypothesis that the partner preference of lesbian and bisexual women mirrors that of heterosexual men.
... Speakers can volitionally modulate the acoustics of their voice 4-6 to modulate their apparent size 7 . In social interactions, vocal size exaggeration contributes to the impression of higher-order social traits such as authority 8 , social dominance 9-11 , and masculinity/femininity 4,5,8,[12][13][14] . Favourable evaluations along these traits can impact social and professional outcomes across the lifespan 15-18 . ...
Article
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The human voice carries socially relevant information such as how authoritative, dominant, and attractive the speaker sounds. However, some speakers may be able to manipulate listeners by modulating the shape and size of their vocal tract to exaggerate certain characteristics of their voice. We analysed the veridical size of speakers’ vocal tracts using real-time magnetic resonance imaging as they volitionally modulated their voice to sound larger or smaller, corresponding changes to the size implied by the acoustics of their voice, and their influence over the perceptions of listeners. Individual differences in this ability were marked, spanning from nearly incapable to nearly perfect vocal modulation, and was consistent across modalities of measurement. Further research is needed to determine whether speakers who are effective at vocal size exaggeration are better able to manipulate their social environment, and whether this variation is an inherited quality of the individual, or the result of life experiences such as vocal training.
... Furthermore, the effect of auditory attractiveness on dating outcomes might be obfuscated by voice modulation and interpersonal dynamics during speed-dates. People modulate the pitch of their voice when addressing a desirable partner (Fraccaro et al., 2011;Leongómez et al., 2014;. In addition, the presence and sound of other people, and a camera recording the interaction, might have further affected the mental states of the participants and, consequently, their voices. ...
Article
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When people meet a potential partner for the first time, they are confronted with multiple sources of information, encompassing different modalities, that they can use to determine whether this partner is suitable for them or not. While visual attractiveness has widely been studied with regard to partner choice, olfactory and auditory cues have received less attention, even though they might influence the attitudes that people have towards their partner. Therefore, in this study, we employed a combination of pre-date multimodal rating tasks followed by speed-date sessions. This offered a naturalistic setup to study partner choice and disentangle the relative effects of a priori attractiveness ratings of sight, scent and sound on date success. Visual attractiveness ratings showed a strong positive correlation with propensity to meet the partner again, while the effects of olfactory and auditory attractiveness were negligible or not robust. Furthermore, we found no robust sex differences in the importance of the three modalities. Our findings underscore the relative importance of visual attractiveness in initial mate choice, but do not corroborate the idea that static pre-date measures of auditory and olfactory attractiveness can predict first date outcomes.
... Nevertheless, physical characteristics are related to desirable impressions are basically inherent, and their nature makes them difficult to change (that is, they are uncontrollable). For instance, brown eyes are correlated with impressions of trustworthiness (Kleisner et al., 2013), lower-pitched (f0) male voices and higher-pitched female voices are generally attractive to listeners of the opposite sex (e.g., Collins, 2000;Collins & Missing, 2003;Fraccaro et al., 2011), and body-mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) play a critical role in the evaluation of female physical attractiveness by men (Conley & McCabe, 2011;Furnham et al., 2005;Singh et al., 2010). Thus, it is possible to infer that some of us naturally have these attractive physical properties, while some of us do not have them, which leads to a question: What can those who do not have these attractive properties do to improve their own social impressions? ...
Article
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People often try to improve their social impressions by performing “good” postures, particularly when others are evaluating them. We aimed to investigate whether such postural management to modulate social impressions are indeed effective, and in the case that they are effective, which impressions are modulated and how quickly these impressions are formed. In total, 207 participants in two different experiments (72 participants in Experiment 1; 135 in Experiment 2) reported their impressions from photographs where other people performed “good” or “bad” postures in three viewing angles (back, front, and side). Participants were presented with a total of 96 pictures without time limitation in Experiment 1; then, for Experiment 2, they were presented with the same pictures, but with time limitations (100, 500, or 1000 ms). In both experiments, participants were asked to report their impressions for each photograph related to the person’s attractiveness, trustworthiness, or dominance. Results showed that the people with “good” postures were generally rated as more attractive and trustworthy. More importantly, it was found that impressions formed after a 100 ms exposure had high correlations with impressions formed in the absence of time constraints, suggesting that the sight of a managed posture for 100 ms is sufficient for people to form social impressions. The findings suggest that people quickly make attractiveness and trustworthiness impressions based on managed postures.
... Lower vocal pitch predicts the mating success of males (Apicella et al., 2007). It has been reported that men lower their pitch, and that women may raise theirs, in a contrived mating context (Puts et al., 2006;Fraccaro et al., 2011). But, not everything is vocal. ...
Article
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Many studies of primate vocalization have been undertaken to improve our understanding of the evolution of language. Perhaps, for this reason, investigators have focused on calls that were thought to carry symbolic information about the environment. Here I suggest that even if these calls were in fact symbolic, there were independent reasons to question this approach in the first place. I begin by asking what kind of communication system would satisfy a species’ biological needs. For example, where animals benefit from living in large groups, I ask how members would need to communicate to keep their groups from fragmenting. In this context, I discuss the role of social grooming and “close calls,” including lip-smacking and grunting. Parallels exist in human societies, where information is exchanged about all kinds of things, often less about the nominal topic than the communicants themselves. This sort of indexical (or personal) information is vital to group living, which presupposes the ability to tolerate, relate to, and interact constructively with other individuals. Making indexical communication the focus of comparative research encourages consideration of somatic and behavioral cues that facilitate relationships and social benefits, including cooperation and collaboration. There is ample room here for a different and potentially more fruitful approach to communication in humans and other primates, one that focuses on personal appraisals, based on cues originating with individuals, rather than signals excited by environmental events.
... Another reason it is important to understand the effects of voluntary pitch altering is to understand the extent and nature of any voluntary control that people might have over their vocal attractiveness. Prior research suggests that people have at least some intuitive sense that pitch shifting can make a difference: Fraccaro et al. (2011) found that in a simulated date scenario, females sometimes unconsciously raised their pitch when leaving a message for a male who was high in facial attractiveness. ...
Article
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This article unpacks the basic mechanisms by which paralinguistic features communicated through the voice can affect evaluative judgments and persuasion. Special emphasis is placed on exploring the rapidly emerging literature on vocal features linked to appraisals of confidence (e.g., vocal pitch, intonation, speech rate, loudness, etc.), and their subsequent impact on information processing and meta-cognitive processes of attitude change. The main goal of this review is to advance understanding of the different psychological processes by which paralinguistic markers of confidence can affect attitude change, specifying the conditions under which they are more likely to operate. In sum, we highlight the importance of considering basic mechanisms of attitude change to predict when and why appraisals of paralinguistic markers of confidence can lead to more or less persuasion.
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Low fluctuating asymmetry (FA, a measure of deviation from bilateral symmetry) appears to be a phenotypic marker of reproductive viability and health. In the present study, we investigated whether ratings of voice attractiveness were correlated with variations in FA. Several bilateral traits were measured to calculate a FA index and independent raters who did not know and never saw the subjects assessed the attractiveness of recordings of each subject's voice. Voices of subjects with greater bilateral symmetry were rated as more attractive by members of both sexes than those with asymmetrical traits.
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Although previous studies of individual differences in preferences for masculinity in male faces have typically emphasised the importance of factors such as changes in levels of sex hormones during the menstrual cycle, other research has demonstrated that recent visual experience with faces also influences preferences for sexual dimorphism in faces. Adaptation to either masculine or feminine faces increases preferences for novel faces that are similar to those that were recently seen. Here we replicate this effect and demonstrate that adaptation to masculine or feminine faces also influences the extent to which masculine faces are perceived as trustworthy. These adaptation effects may reflect a proximate mechanism that contributes to the development of face preferences within individuals, that underpins phenomena such as imprinting-like effects and condition-dependent face preferences, and that shapes personality attributions to faces that play an important role in romantic partner and associate choices. Furthermore, our findings also support the proposal that visual exposure alone cannot explain the context-specificity of attitudes to self-resemblance in faces.
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Here we show that women's preferences for femininity (vs. masculinity) in men's faces are decreased after viewing a slideshow of images of highly attractive men, but not after viewing a slideshow of relatively unattractive men. As masculinity is thought to be a cue of men's herita-ble fitness, and viewing images of highly attractive opposite-sex individuals increases sexual mo-tivation, this may indicate that women increase their preferences for male cues of heritable fitness in circumstances where mating is likely to occur. This context-sensitivity in women's face prefer-ences may, therefore, be adaptive, since decreased preferences for feminine men (i.e. increased preferences for masculine men) when sexual motivation is enhanced may increase offspring vi-ability. Interestingly, we found that viewing images of highly attractive men also decreased women's preferences for femininity in female faces. This latter finding could either reflect in-creased derogation of attractive (i.e. feminine) same-sex competitors when sexual motivation is enhanced or be a low-cost functionless by-product of a mechanism for increasing preferences for cues of men's heritable fitness when sexual motivation is high. Collectively, our findings demon-strate that recent visual experience with highly attractive opposite-sex individuals influences at-tractiveness judgments and present novel evidence for potentially adaptive context-sensitivity in attractiveness judgments.
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Reported sex drive was recently found to be positively associated with heterosexual women’s attraction to both men and women (Lippa, 2006). This finding was interpreted as evidence that sex drive is a generalized energizer of women’s sexual behaviors and responses, rather than energizing behavior and responses towards potential mates only. Here we show that reported sex drive is positively associated with heterosexual women’s preferences for sexual dimorphism in both men’s and women’s faces (Studies 1 and 2). These findings complement those reported by Lippa (2006), since our own studies and Lippa’s show that sex drive is positively associated with heterosexual women’s judgments of both men and women. Our findings for associations between reported sex drive and women’s preferences for sexual dimorphism implicate sex drive as a possible source of individual differences in women’s face preferences and present novel converging evidence that sex drive is a generalized energizer of women’s sexual behaviors and responses.
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Previous studies have reported variation in women's preferences for masculinity in men's faces and voices. Women show consistent preferences for vocal masculinity, but highly variable preferences for facial masculinity. Within individuals, men with attractive voices tend to have attractive faces, suggesting common information may be conveyed by these cues. Here we tested whether men and women with particularly strong preferences for male vocal masculinity also have stronger preferences for male facial masculinity. We found that masculinity preferences were positively correlated across modalities. We also investigated potential influences on these relationships between face and voice preferences. Women using oral contraceptives showed weaker facial and vocal masculinity preferences and weaker associations between masculinity preferences across modalities than women not using oral contraceptives. Collectively, these results suggest that men's faces and voices may reveal common information about the masculinity of the sender, and that these multiple quality cues could be used in conjunction by the perceiver in order to determine the overall quality of individuals.
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Examined the prosodic characteristics of "motherese" in the speech of 24 German mothers to their newborns. Each S was recorded in 3 observational conditions, while addressing (1) her 3–5 day old baby (MB speech), (2) the absent infant as if present (simulated MB speech), and (3) the adult interviewer (MA speech). For each S, 2-min speech samples from each condition were acoustically analyzed. It was found that in MB speech, Ss spoke with higher pitch, wider pitch excursions, longer pauses, shorter utterances, and more prosodic repetition than in MA speech. 77% of the utterances in the MB speech sample conformed to a limited set of prosodic patterns that occurred only rarely in adult-directed speech (i.e., they consisted of characteristic expanded intonation contours, or they were whispered). The prosody of mothers' speech is discussed in terms of its immediate influence within the context of mother–infant interaction, as well as its potential long-range contribution to perceptual, social, and linguistic development. The exaggerated, rhythmic vocalizations of mothers' speech to newborns may serve to regulate infant attention and responsiveness and later contribute to prelinguistic skills. (36 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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The prosodic features of maternal speech addressed to 2-month-old infants were measured quantitatively in a tonal language, Mandarin Chinese, to determine whether the features are similar to those observed in nontonal languages such as English and German. Speech samples were recorded when 8 Mandarin-speaking mothers addressed an adult and their own infants. Eight prosodic features were measured by computer: fundamental frequency (pitch), frequency range per sample, frequency range per phrase, phrase duration, pause duration, number of phrases per sample, number of syllables per phrase, and the proportion of phrase time as opposed to pause time per sample. Results showed that fundamental frequency was significantly higher and exhibited a larger range over the entire sample as well as a larger range per phrase in infant-directed as opposed to adult-directed speech. Durational analyses indicated significantly shorter utterances and longer pauses in infant-directed speech. Significantly fewer phrases per sample, fewer syllables per phrase, and less phrase-time per sample occurred in infant-directed speech. This pattern of results for Mandarin motherese is similar to that reported in other languages and suggests that motherese may exhibit universal prosodic features. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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We investigated the relationship between ratings of voice attractiveness and sexually dimorphic differences in shoulder-to-hip ratios (SHR) and waist-to-hip ratios (WHR), as well as different features of sexual behavior. Opposite-sex voice attractiveness ratings were positively correlated with SHR in males and negatively correlated with WHR in females. For both sexes, ratings of opposite-sex voice attractiveness also predicted reported age of first sexual intercourse, number of sexual partners, number of extra-pair copulation (EPC) partners, and number of partners that they had intercourse with that were involved in another relationship (i.e., were themselves chosen as an EPC partner). Coupled with previous findings showing a relationship between voice attractiveness and bilateral symmetry, these results provide additional evidence that the sound of a person's voice may serve as an important multidimensional fitness indicator.
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Findings from previous studies suggest that only men who are in good physical condition can afford to pursue high-risk activities and that men who engage in high-risk activities are considered particularly attractive by women. Here, we show that men's interest in high-sensation activities, a personality trait that is known to increase the likelihood of those individuals engaging in high-risk behaviors, is positively related to the strength of their preferences for femininity in women's faces (Studies 1–3) but is not related to the strength of their preferences for femininity in men's faces (Study 2). We discuss these findings as evidence for potentially adaptive condition-dependent mate preferences, whereby men who exhibit signals of high quality demonstrate particularly strong preferences for facial cues of reproductive and medical health in potential mates because they are more likely than lower-quality men to succeed in acquiring such partners.
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The developmental and anatomical causes of human voice sexual dimorphisms are known, but the evolutionary causes are not. Some evidence suggests a role of intersexual selection via female mate choice, but other evidence implicates male dominance competition. In this study, we examine the relationships among voice pitch, dominance, and male mating success. Males were audio recorded while participating in an unscripted dating-game scenario. Recordings were subsequently manipulated in voice pitch using computer software and then rated by groups of males for dominance. Results indicate that (1) a masculine, low-pitch voice increases ratings of men's physical and social dominance, augmenting the former more than the latter; and (2) men who believe they are physically dominant to their competitor lower their voice pitch when addressing him, whereas men who believe they are less dominant raise it. We also found a nonsignificant trend for men who speak at a lower pitch to report more sexual partners in the past year. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that male intrasexual competition was a salient selection pressure on the voices of ancestral males and contributed to human voice sexual dimorphism.