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A person's mental capacities, such as intellect, cannot be observed directly and so are instead inferred from indirect cues. We predicted that a person's intellect would be conveyed most strongly through a cue closely tied to actual thinking: his or her voice. Hypothetical employers (Experiments 1-3b) and professional recruiters (Experiment 4) watched, listened to, or read job candidates' pitches about why they should be hired. These evaluators rated a candidate as more competent, thoughtful, and intelligent when they heard a pitch rather than read it and, as a result, had a more favorable impression of the candidate and were more interested in hiring the candidate. Adding voice to written pitches, by having trained actors (Experiment 3a) or untrained adults (Experiment 3b) read them, produced the same results. Adding visual cues to audio pitches did not alter evaluations of the candidates. For conveying one's intellect, it is important that one's voice, quite literally, be heard. © The Author(s) 2015.
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Psychological Science
2015, Vol. 26(6) 877 –891
© The Author(s) 2015
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DOI: 10.1177/0956797615572906
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Research Article
Some of the most important decisions in life are based on
inferences about another person’s mental capacities: Is
this person trustworthy or deceptive? Was the perpetrator
capable of judging right from wrong? Will this job candi-
date be smart enough to succeed here? Such inferences
require sophisticated social cognition about invisible
mental processes that go beyond observable behavior,
guided by top-down mechanisms of egocentric projec-
tion (O’Brien & Ellsworth, 2012; Van Boven & Loewenstein,
2003) and stereotype application (Fiske, Cuddy, & Glick,
2007) as well as by bottom-up interpretations of another
person’s behavior (Gilbert & Malone, 1995).
Here we examine how judgments of another person’s
mental capacity—specifically, the capacity for reasoning
and intellect—is affected by a cue directly linked to the
person’s ongoing mental experience: his or her voice. A
person’s voice, after all, is a conduit for expressing
sophisticated thoughts, beliefs, and knowledge using the
semantic and paralinguistic cues available in language
(Pinker & Bloom, 1990). Research has revealed the
unique importance of a person’s voice, over and above
the semantic content of the person’s language, for
understanding the contents of his or her thoughts.
Because of the paralinguistic cues in voice, such as into-
nation, cadence, and amplitude, observers who hear
communicators guess their actual thoughts and feelings
more accurately than observers who read the exact same
words in text (Hall & Schmid Mast, 2007; Kruger, Epley,
Parker, & Ng, 2005). Adding visual information to verbal
information does not appear to increase this accuracy
(Hall & Schmid Mast, 2007; Gesn & Ickes, 1999), which
suggests that visual information may be redundant with
speech or at least less informative for mental-capacity
inferences.
We predicted that a person’s speech, beyond commu-
nicating the contents of that person’s mind (his or her
specific thoughts and beliefs), also conveys the person’s
fundamental capacity to think (his or her capacity for
reasoning, thoughtfulness, and intellect). Changes in the
572906PSSXXX10.1177/0956797615572906Schroeder, EpleySpeech Conveys Intellect
research-article2015
Corresponding Author:
Nicholas Epley, University of Chicago, Booth School of Business, 5807
South Woodlawn Ave., University of Chicago GSB, Chicago, IL 60637
E-mail: epley@chicagobooth.edu
The Sound of Intellect: Speech Reveals
a Thoughtful Mind, Increasing a Job
Candidate’s Appeal
Juliana Schroeder and Nicholas Epley
Booth School of Business, University of Chicago
Abstract
A person’s mental capacities, such as intellect, cannot be observed directly and so are instead inferred from indirect
cues. We predicted that a person’s intellect would be conveyed most strongly through a cue closely tied to actual
thinking: his or her voice. Hypothetical employers (Experiments 1–3b) and professional recruiters (Experiment 4)
watched, listened to, or read job candidates’ pitches about why they should be hired. These evaluators rated a
candidate as more competent, thoughtful, and intelligent when they heard a pitch rather than read it and, as a result,
had a more favorable impression of the candidate and were more interested in hiring the candidate. Adding voice to
written pitches, by having trained actors (Experiment 3a) or untrained adults (Experiment 3b) read them, produced
the same results. Adding visual cues to audio pitches did not alter evaluations of the candidates. For conveying one’s
intellect, it is important that one’s voice, quite literally, be heard.
Keywords
communication, voice, speech, mind perception, social cognition, decision making, open data
Received 8/29/14; Revision accepted 1/25/15
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878 Schroeder, Epley
tone, cadence, and pitch of an individual’s voice, for
example, may reveal the process of thinking and reason-
ing while it is happening, thereby conveying the presence
of mental capacity more clearly than would the semantic
content of language alone. Just as variability in motion
serves as a cue for biological life, so too may variability in
voice serve as a cue for a lively, active, and capable mind.
If so, then a person should appear to have greater mental
capacity—to be more thoughtful, rational, and intelli-
gent—when observers hear what the person has to say
than when they read what the person has to say.
Inferences about another person’s mental capacity are
important in social life because the capacity for thinking,
reasoning, and rationality is a defining feature of person-
hood according to both philosophers and laypeople
(Demoulin etal., 2004; Dennett, 1987; Farah & Heberlein,
2007; Gray, Gray, & Wegner, 2007; Haslam, Bain, Douge,
Lee, & Bastian, 2005; Kant, 1781/2007; Locke, 1841/1997).
People are perceived as more capable of reasoning than
are animals and robots. Failing to recognize another per-
son’s capacity for thinking, reasoning, and rationality is
therefore a subtle form of dehumanization (Harris &
Fiske, 2006; Haslam & Loughnan, 2014; Waytz, Schroeder,
& Epley, 2014). By predicting that a person’s speech
reveals his or her capacity for intellect, we are also pre-
dicting that speech is humanizing.
Our hypotheses are based on three existing empirical
results. First, observers more accurately predict another
person’s thoughts and feelings when they can hear that
person speak than when they read the same content
(Hall & Schmid Mast, 2007; Ickes, 2003; Kruger etal.,
2005; Mehrabian & Wiener, 1967; Zaki, Bolger, & Ochsner,
2009). Communicators themselves do not seem to recog-
nize this, as they expect to communicate equally well
across media (Kruger et al., 2005). Second, giving a
machine a human voice increases observers’ tendency to
anthropomorphize the otherwise mindless machine,
attributing to it a mind capable of thinking and feeling
(Nass & Brave, 2005; Takayama & Nass, 2008; Waytz,
Heafner, & Epley, 2014). Third, paralinguistic characteris-
tics of a person’s voice (e.g., pitch level) alter observers’
trait-based impressions of that person (Gregory &
Webster, 1996; Hughes, Mogilski, & Harrison, 2014; Jones,
Feinberg, DeBruine, Little, & Vukovic, 2010; Laplante &
Ambady, 2003). In a series of experiments most relevant
to our hypotheses (Schroeder & Epley, 2015), speakers
were rated as less mindful—for example, as less thought-
ful and reasonable—when observers read a transcript of
their speech than when observers heard the very same
speech. Likewise, adding an actor’s voice to written text
led observers to rate the original author as more mindful.
In these experiments, pitch variance (i.e., intonation)
conveyed the capacity for thinking most strongly. Actors
who were instructed to read the words of a speech
putting “little feeling or life into the words” spoke in a
relatively monotone voice and were subsequently rated
as less mindful by observers, compared with actors who
were asked to read a speech as if they “were the real
speaker.” If people who read a person’s speech do not
spontaneously compensate for the lack of paralinguistic
cues in text, then their impressions of the speaker’s men-
tal capacities could be systematically diminished com-
pared with the impressions of observers who hear the
person’s speech.
We tested the importance of a person’s voice for com-
municating intellect in a domain where judgments of a
person’s mental capacities are both common and critical:
hiring decisions. We asked M.B.A. students to provide
spoken and written “elevator pitches”—short descrip-
tions of their qualifications—that they might use with
potential employers. Across five experiments, either
hypothetical employers (Experiments 1–3b) or profes-
sional job recruiters (Experiment 4) watched, listened to,
or read these candidates’ pitches and then evaluated the
candidates’ intellect, reported their general impressions
of the candidates, and indicated their interest in hiring
the candidates. We predicted that job candidates would
seem more competent, thoughtful, and intelligent when
evaluators heard them explain their qualifications than
when evaluators read the text of the very same speeches,
or read written descriptions of the candidates’ qualifica-
tions. Because intellect is essential for many jobs, we also
predicted that potential employers would have more
favorable impressions of the candidates and be more
interested in hiring the candidates when they heard the
candidates’ speech.
To ease presentation of the results, we report all analy-
ses of evaluators’ ratings at the level of the individual
evaluators. However, we also analyzed the data in all of
our studies using hierarchical linear models (HLMs) to
account for the nesting of evaluators within candidates
(e.g., as recommended by Judd, Westfall, & Kenny, 2012).
To do this, we created multilevel random-intercept, ran-
dom-slope models with evaluators (Level 1) nested
within candidates (Level 2), treating experimental condi-
tion as a fixed effect and the candidate being evaluated
as a random effect. These analyses all yielded results that
were as strong as or stronger than the results of the more
conservative tests we report here. We report the results
for the HLMs in Supplemental Results, in the Supplemental
Material available online.
Experiment 1: Voice Versus Transcript
We videotaped M.B.A. students giving spoken elevator
pitches to their top potential employers. Evaluators then
watched, listened to, or read transcripts of the videos. We
predicted that candidates would seem more competent,
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Speech Conveys Intellect 879
thoughtful, and intelligent when their pitches were heard
rather than read, and that evaluators would consequently
be more interested in hiring candidates whose pitches
were heard rather than read.
Including the video condition provided a test between
our proposed mechanism—that speech conveys intellect
through paralinguistic cues in voice—and an alternative
explanation—that speech conveys intellect through indi-
viduation. If additional individuating information con-
veys intellect, then video should make a person appear
even more mentally capable than audio alone. If, as we
predicted, mental capacity is revealed primarily through
a person’s voice, then evaluators’ impressions should be
similar whether they watch a video or listen to an audio
recording.
Method
Participants. Eighteen M.B.A. students at the University
of Chicago Booth School of Business (mean age = 28.2
years, SD = 2.07; 11 males) responded to our request for
research assistance, serving as job candidates in exchange
for a $5 Starbucks gift card. We then recruited 162 people
(mean age = 36.86 years, SD = 15.01; 80 males) visiting
the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago to evalu-
ate the candidates in exchange for a food item. The sam-
ple size for evaluators was predetermined by our goal to
have 3 people evaluate each of the 18 candidates in each
of the three conditions (i.e., slightly more than 50 evalu-
ators per condition). We did not know what effect size to
predict in this first experiment, but we arrived at this
number because it was feasible at our laboratory, offered
multiple evaluators for each target, and was our best
guess of the sample size needed to detect an effect of
interest. Fifty participants per condition yields 80% power
to detect a medium-sized effect.
Procedure. We recruited the M.B.A. students to partici-
pate as job candidates in a 20-min study on how people
make hiring decisions. The candidates first named the
company for which they would most like to work and
then considered (for 1 min) the pitch they would make to
encourage this company to evaluate them positively and
to hire them. Each candidate provided both a spoken and
a written pitch to the prospective employer (order coun-
terbalanced). In the spoken-pitch condition, we told can-
didates that we would videotape them as they gave their
pitch and that they should speak directly to the camera.
We told them that they had 2 min to talk, although we
allowed them to reach the natural conclusion of their
pitch (actual video durations ranged from 49 s to 2 min
30s). In the written-pitch condition, we told candidates to
compose a letter to the prospective employer. Candidates
had 10 min1 to type their letter on a computer; if they
were still typing at the 10-min mark, we told them to fin-
ish their thought and stop typing.
After finishing their spoken and written pitches, the
candidates completed a short survey asking them to pre-
dict (a) how positively someone would evaluate their
written pitch (0 = not at all positively, 6 = very positively),
(b) how interested someone would be in hiring them
after reading their written pitch (0 = not at all interested,
6 = very interested), (c) how positively someone would
evaluate their spoken pitch (0 = not at all positively, 6 =
very positively), (d) how interested someone would be in
hiring them after listening to their spoken pitch (0 = not
at all interested, 6 = very interested), and (e) how many
times they had given their pitch before. We collected
these predictions in order to examine how the candidates
expected they would be judged. Theoretically, such
expectations matter because they indicate whether the
cues that convey mental capacities in social interaction
are obvious to those in the midst of the interaction.
Practically, such expectations matter because they could
guide how candidates approach potential employers.
Candidates who believe their spoken pitch will be judged
exactly the same as their written pitch may see no reason
to seek voice time with a potential employer.
We used only the spoken pitches from the candidates
to create the stimuli for the hypothetical employers (evalu-
ators) in this experiment. The evaluators were assigned to
one of three conditions: Those in the video condition
watched and listened to a candidate’s spoken pitch, those
in the audio condition only listened to a spoken pitch, and
those in the transcript condition read a transcribed pitch.2
Each evaluator therefore observed only one candidate’s
pitch in one medium. After seeing, hearing, or reading a
candidate’s pitch, evaluators completed a survey. The sur-
vey first explained,
You just [watched/listened to/read the transcript of]
an MBA student from the University of Chicago
Booth School of Business talking about why he or
she should be hired for his or her ideal job. This job
is in the service sector and it requires a highly
competent, thoughtful, and intelligent employee.
Your role in this study is to pretend that you are the
employer who is considering this candidate for the
job. Based on the [clip/transcript] that you just
[watched/listened to/read], please let us know your
impressions of the candidate. You must evaluate
this candidate against all of the other candidates
who are also applying for the same job—you can
assume these other candidates are also high
achieving MBA students.
Evaluators then answered three questions about the
candidate’s intellect: They rated (a) how competent the
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880 Schroeder, Epley
candidate seemed compared with an average candidate
for an M.B.A.-level position (−5 = much less competent,
5= much more competent), (b) how thoughtful the can-
didate seemed compared with an average candidate for
an M.B.A.-level position (−5 = much less thoughtful, 5 =
much more thoughtful), and (c) how intelligent the can-
didate seemed compared with an average candidate for
an M.B.A.-level position (−5 = much less intelligent, 5 =
much more intelligent). Evaluators then reported their
general impressions of the candidate: how much they
liked the candidate (0 = did not like at all, 10 = extremely
liked), how positive their overall impression of the candi-
date was (0 = not at all positive, 10 = extremely positive),
and how negative their overall impression of the candi-
date was (0 = not at all negative, 10 = extremely negative;
reverse-scored). Finally, participants rated how likely
they would be to hire the candidate for the job (0 = not
at all likely, 10 = extremely likely). We averaged the rat-
ings of intelligence, competence, and thoughtfulness to
form a composite measure of intellect (α = .91) and the
ratings of liking, positive impression, and negative
impression to form a composite measure of general
impressions (α = .89).
Results
Degrees of freedom in the statistical tests reported vary
slightly because some participants failed to answer every
survey item.
Job candidates’ predictions. The M.B.A. students
were somewhat experienced in giving their spoken
pitches. On average, they had already given their pitches
1.44 (SD = 1.58) times. These participants did not predict
that they would be evaluated differently when employers
listened to their spoken pitches (M = 3.61, SD = 0.78)
than when employers read their written pitches (M =
3.22, SD = 0.94), paired t(17) = 1.20, p = .25, d = 0.45.
They also did not expect any difference in their likeli-
hood of getting hired depending on whether employers
listened to their spoken pitches (M = 3.28, SD = 0.89) or
read their written pitches (M = 3.00, SD = 1.08), paired
t(17) = 0.80, p = .44, d = 0.29. In short, the students did
not have strong expectations that other people’s evalua-
tions would depend on whether their pitches were heard
or read. We directly tested the veracity of these candi-
dates’ predictions in Experiment 2.
Because these predictions were underpowered given
the sample size of only 18 candidates, we collected data
from two more samples of job candidates in an effort to
better understand candidates’ intuitions (for details, see
Supplemental Results in the Supplemental Material).
Sixteen M.A. students (mean age = 29.3 years, SD = 5.94;
11 males) and 40 community members (mean age = 28.6
years, SD = 9.03; 28 males) currently searching for jobs
created written and spoken pitches for their preferred
employers. These participants then made the same pre-
dictions as the M.B.A. job candidates.
As with the M.B.A. students, neither sample expected
to be evaluated more favorably by employers who lis-
tened to their pitches than by those who read their
pitches. The M.A. students did not predict that they would
be evaluated differently by employers who listened to
their pitches (M = 3.88, SD = 1.20) than by those who
read their pitches (M = 3.94, SD = 1.18), paired t(15)=
0.15, p = .88, nor did they predict that their likelihood of
getting hired would differ depending on whether employ-
ers heard their pitches (M = 3.94, SD = 1.34) or read their
pitches (M = 4.06, SD = 1.00), paired t(15) = 0.36, p = .73,
d = 0.10. The community members predicted that they
would be evaluated significantly more positively by
employers who read their pitches (M = 4.53, SD = 1.26)
than by employers who listened to their pitches (M =
3.52, SD = 1.38), paired t(39) = 4.47, p < .01, d = 0.76.
They also predicted that they would have a greater likeli-
hood of being hired by employers who read their pitches
(M = 4.35, SD = 1.29) than by employers who listened to
their pitches (M = 3.53, SD = 1.41), paired t(39) = 3.69,
p< .01, d = 0.61. Without further data, we are reluctant to
speculate about why the community sample predicted
that they would be perceived more positively in writing
than in speaking. We simply note that none of the three
samples expected to be seen as more mindful, or more
employable, when employers heard their voice.
Hypothetical employers’ evaluations. As predicted,
evaluators’ beliefs about job candidates’ intellect—their
competence, thoughtfulness, and intelligence—depended
on the communication medium, F(2, 157) = 10.81, p <
.01, η2 = .12. As indicated by the standardized scores
shown in Figure 1, evaluators who heard pitches rated
the candidates’ intellect more highly (M = 0.91, SD =
1.79) than did evaluators who read transcripts of pitches
(M = −0.70, SD = 2.81), t(157) = 3.79, p < .01, 95% confi-
dence interval (CI) of the difference = [0.70, 2.51], d =
0.60. Evaluators who watched pitches did not evaluate
the candidates’ intellect (M = 1.09, SD = 1.80) differently
than evaluators who listened to pitches, t(157) < 1. Simply
adding more individuating information about a candidate
through visual cues, such as physical appearance and
nonverbal mannerisms, had no measurable impact on
evaluations of the candidate’s mind. Candidates’ intellect
was conveyed primarily through their voice.
Perhaps more important, evaluators who heard pitches
also reported more favorable impressions of the candi-
dates—liked the candidates more and had more positive
and less negative impressions of the candidates—than
did evaluators who read pitches (M = 5.69, SD = 1.96, vs.
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Speech Conveys Intellect 881
M = 4.78, SD = 2.64), t(159) = 2.16, p = .03, 95% CI of the
difference = [0.02, 1.80], d = 0.34 (see Fig. 1). Evaluators
who heard pitches also reported being significantly more
likely to hire the candidates (M = 4.34, SD = 2.26) than
did evaluators who read exactly the same pitches (M =
3.06, SD = 3.15), t(156) = 2.49, p = .01, 95% CI of the dif-
ference = [0.22, 2.34], d = 0.40 (see Fig. 1). These results
again did not appear to stem simply from having more
individuating information about the candidates in the
audio condition, because evaluators who watched pitches
did not report more favorable impressions (M = 5.98,
SD = 1.91) or an increased likelihood of hiring the
candidates (M = 4.46, SD = 2.43) compared with evalua-
tors who heard pitches, ts < 1.
We predicted that a candidate’s voice would make
him or her seem more competent, thoughtful, and intel-
ligent, which in turn would lead potential employers to
a more favorable general impression, and increase their
perception of how likely they were to hire the candidate.
A mediation analysis (Fig. 2) supported this hypothesis:
Evaluators’ perceptions of a candidate’s intellect and
their general impressions of the candidate sequentially
mediated the effect of hearing the candidate’s voice
(audio condition, coded as 1), rather than reading the
–0.8
–0.6
–0.4
–0.2
0
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
Intellect General Impression Hiring Likelihood
Employers’ z-Scored Evaluation of Candidates
Video
Audio
Transcript
Fig. 1. Results from Experiment 1: evaluators’ standardized ratings of the job candidates’
intellect, their general impressions of the candidates, and their likelihood of hiring the
candidates. Results are shown separately for the video, audio, and transcript conditions.
Error bars represent ±1 SEM.
β = –0.17, SE = 0.30, p = .57
β = 0.77, SE =
0.06, p < .01
β = 0.47, SE =
0.10, p < .01
β = 0.59, SE =
0.10, p < .01
β = 1.71, SE =
0.46, p < .01 β = –0.35, SE =
0.31, p = .26
Intellect
(α = .91)
Impressions
(α = .89)
Experimental
Condition:
Audio vs. Transcript
Hiring
Likelihood
Fig. 2. Results from Experiment 1: mediation model testing the effect of experimental condition on reported likeli-
hood of hiring a job candidate, as mediated by perceived intellect of the candidate and general impressions of the
candidate.
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882 Schroeder, Epley
candidate’s pitch (transcript condition, coded as 0), on hir-
ing likelihood. The effect of condition on hiring likelihood
was significant before perceived intellect and general
impressions were included in the model, β = 1.21, SE = 0.54,
p = .03, but this effect became nonsignificant when the
mediators were included (β = −0.17, SE = 0.30, p = .57).
A 5,000-sample bootstrap test estimated that perceived
intellect had a significant indirect effect of 0.80 (SE =
0.28, 95% CI = [0.33, 1.44]), that general impressions did
not have a significant indirect effect (indirect effect =
−0.21, SE = 0.18, 95% CI = [−0.59, 0.13]), and that the two
mediators had a significant combined indirect effect of
0.79 (SE = 0.25, 95% CI = [0.33, 1.33]; MacKinnon,
Fairchild, & Fritz, 2007).
These analyses suggest that a potential job candidate’s
voice conveyed intellect, which led to a more positive
impression of the candidate and increased hypothetical
interest in hiring the candidate among evaluators. These
results are consistent with our hypothesis that speech,
because of the natural paralinguistic cues in voice that
are particularly well equipped to express thought, can
reveal a person’s mental capacities. There was no system-
atic evidence that being able to see someone in addition
to hearing him or her affected inferences about mental
capacity. This suggests that it is not merely the addition
of individuating information that reveals a person’s mind.
Rather, job candidates’ intellect seemed greater when
observers heard (rather than read) their speeches, regard-
less of the total amount of information in the communi-
cation medium.
Experiment 2: Speaking Versus
Writing
In Experiment 1, we tested the importance of a person’s
voice in observers’ evaluations of that person by transcrib-
ing candidates’ speech to ensure that semantic content
was identical in the audio and transcript conditions. In
Experiment 2, we conducted a replication test of the main
results from Experiment 1, using the same spoken pitches,
and also added a critical third condition in which evalua-
tors read candidates’ written pitches. If a written pitch is
evaluated like a spoken pitch, then candidates’ voices are
not necessary to convey intellect, but some aspect of eval-
uating a transcribed speech would apparently explain our
prior results. If a written pitch is evaluated like a tran-
script, then this would provide stronger evidence that a
person’s voice conveys his or her mental capacities.
Method
Participants. We anticipated additional variance in this
experiment because we varied not only the communica-
tion medium (speech vs. writing) but also the semantic
content (transcribed spoken pitch vs. written pitch).
Therefore, we increased our targeted sample size to 4
evaluators per speaker per condition (total of 216 evalu-
ators). Because we did not know what effect size to
expect in this experiment, this was our best estimate of
the sample size we would need to detect an effect of
interest. Our final sample was 218 visitors to the Museum
of Science and Industry in Chicago (mean age = 35.0
years, SD = 12.8; 106 males), who evaluated candidates
in exchange for a food item. We collected data from
more than our targeted number of evaluators because we
continued running the experiment until the end of a
scheduled room reservation.
Procedure. Both the spoken and the written pitches
from the 18 M.B.A. students in Experiment 1 served as
our stimuli. We assigned participants serving as hypo-
thetical employers (evaluators) to one of three condi-
tions: Those in the audio condition listened to a
candidate’s spoken pitch, those in the transcript condi-
tion read the transcript of a candidate’s spoken pitch, and
those in the writing condition read a candidate’s own
written pitch. After evaluators listened to the speech,
read the transcribed speech, or read the written pitch,
they completed a survey that included the same items as
in Experiment 1. As in that experiment, we averaged rat-
ings to create composite measures of intellect (α = .88)
and general impressions (α = .87).
Results
Degrees of freedom in the statistical tests reported vary
slightly because some participants failed to answer every
survey item.
Evaluators’ beliefs about job candidates’ intellect—their
competence, thoughtfulness, and intelligence—again var-
ied by communication medium, F(2, 215) = 3.07, p = .05,
η2 = .03. As indicated by the standardized scores shown
in Figure 3, evaluators who heard pitches rated the can-
didates’ intellect more highly (M = 1.12, SD = 1.85) than
did evaluators who read transcripts of pitches (M = 0.35,
SD = 2.41), t(215) = 2.09, p = .04, 95% CI of the differ-
ence= [0.06, 1.47], d = 0.29. They also rated the candi-
dates’ intellect more highly than did evaluators who read
written pitches (M = 0.31, SD = 2.34), t(215) = 2.20, p =
.03, 95% CI of the difference = [0.12, 1.50], d = 0.30.
Evaluations of the candidates’ intellect did not differ
between the transcript and writing conditions, t(215) < 1.
Evaluators’ general impressions of the job candi-
dates—liking, positive impression, and negative impres-
sion of the candidates—also varied by condition, F(2,
214) = 4.72, p = .01, η2 = .04. Specifically, evaluators who
heard pitches reported more favorable impressions of the
candidates (M = 6.30, SD = 1.78) than did evaluators who
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Speech Conveys Intellect 883
read transcripts of pitches (M = 5.44, SD = 2.39), t(214) =
2.31, p = .02, 95% CI of the difference = [0.16, 1.54], d =
0.32, and evaluators who read the candidates’ written
pitches (M = 5.23, SD = 2.46), t(214) = 2.90, p < .01, 95%
CI of the difference = [0.37, 1.77], d = 0.40 (see Fig. 3).
Evaluators who heard pitches also reported being more
likely to hire the candidates (M = 4.83, SD = 2.53) than
did evaluators who read transcripts (M = 3.77, SD = 2.88),
t(208) = 2.30, p = .02, 95% CI of the difference = [0.15,
1.97], d = 0.32, and marginally more likely to hire the
candidates than did evaluators who read written pitches
(M = 3.99, SD = 2.73), t(208) = 1.84, p = .07, 95% CI of the
difference = [−0.03, 1.73], d = 0.26 (see Fig. 3). General
impressions of the candidates and hiring likelihood did
not vary between the transcript and writing conditions,
ts< 1.
Finally, we again tested whether evaluators’ percep-
tions of the candidates’ intellect and general impressions
of the candidates sequentially mediated the effect of
hearing pitches (rather than reading them) on likelihood
of hiring the candidates. Because the contrast between
the audio and writing conditions on hiring likelihood was
only marginally significant with a two-tailed test (p = .07),
a sequential mediation analysis comparing these two
conditions was technically unjustified. In a sequential
mediation test comparing the audio (coded as 1) and
transcript (coded as 0) conditions alone, adding per-
ceived intellect and general impressions to the model
reduced the effect of communication medium on hiring
likelihood so that it became nonsignificant (without the
mediators: β = 1.08, SE = 0.46, p = .02; with the media-
tors: β = 0.08, SE = 0.24, p = .74). A 5,000-sample boot-
strap test estimated that perceived intellect had a
significant indirect effect of 0.42 (SE = 0.20, 95% CI =
[0.05, 0.83]), that general impressions did not have a sig-
nificant indirect effect (indirect effect = 0.14, SE = 0.14,
95% CI = [−0.11, 0.43]), and that the two mediators had a
significant combined indirect effect of 0.41 (SE = 0.19,
95% CI = [0.06, 0.79]; MacKinnon etal., 2007).
As shown in Figure 4, a sequential mediation analysis
comparing voice (audio condition, coded as 1) against
text (transcript and writing conditions combined, coded
as 0) yielded the same conclusions. Including perceived
intellect and general impressions in the model made the
effect of communication medium nonsignificant (without
the mediators: β = 0.95, SE = 0.40, p = .02; with the media-
tors: β = −0.04, SE = 0.21, p = .85). A 5,000-sample boot-
strap test estimated that perceived intellect had a significant
indirect effect of 0.41 (SE = 0.17, 95% CI = [0.10, 0.76]),
that general impressions did not have an indirect effect
(indirect effect = 0.21, SE = 0.12, 95% CI = [−0.01, 0.46]),
and that the two mediators had a significant combined
indirect effect of 0.37 (SE = 0.15, 95% CI= [0.09, 0.67];
MacKinnon etal., 2007).
These results both replicate and extend those of
Experiment 1. A person’s voice again seemed to commu-
nicate a more thoughtful mind than written text did, and
this effect emerged both when the semantic content of a
speech was held constant by transcribing it and when the
speaker was allowed to craft a written pitch him- or
–0.8
–0.6
–0.4
–0.2
0
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
Intellect General Impression Hiring Likelihood
Employers’ z-Scored Evaluation of Candidates
Writing
Transcript
Audio
Fig. 3. Results from Experiment 2: evaluators’ standardized ratings of the job candidates’
intellect, their general impressions of the candidates, and their likelihood of hiring the
candidates. Results are shown separately for the writing, transcript, and audio conditions.
Error bars represent ±1 SEM.
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884 Schroeder, Epley
herself. The capacity for intellect, it appears, is more
readily conveyed through one’s voice than through one’s
writing, even when the semantic content is identical. The
results for the writing condition, of course, do not indi-
cate that it is impossible for a talented writer to overcome
the limitations of text alone; they indicate only that our
M.B.A. students in Experiment 1 did not predict that they
needed to overcome these limitations and did not do so
spontaneously.
Experiments 3a and 3b: Giving Voice
to Text
Experiments 1 and 2 suggest that removing a speaker’s
voice from his or her spoken pitch can make the speaker
seem less mindful (less thoughtful, rational, and intelli-
gent). In Experiments 3a and 3b, we conducted a more
comprehensive test of our hypothesis by examining
whether adding voice to text likewise affects evaluations
of the author’s intellect. In Experiment 3a, we recruited
four trained stage actors to read all 18 pitches. To ensure
that our results were not due to some aspect unique to
actors’ voices, we conducted a replication with a more
representative sample of readers in Experiment 3b.
Experiment 3a
Method. The 4 most experienced stage actors who
responded to our request for assistance received $25
each for their participation (mean age = 20 years; 2 males;
selected from a pool of 12). Actors came to a recording
booth, where an experimenter gave them the following
instructions:
Today, you will be reading 18 different “elevator
pitches” from the University of Chicago Booth School
of Business students. These 18 students were told to
pick their ideal job and write a pitch to the employer
about why they would be a good fit for the job. We
want you to pretend that you are the MBA student
who wrote the pitch. We want you imbue your
words with all of the thoughts, emotions, and
substance that the writer him/herself felt. We want
you to read it as if you were actually coming up with
the lines naturally off the top of your head, as in a
real conversation, rather than reading from a script.
We want you to speak as naturally as you would if
you were making a real pitch to an employer right
no w.
We designed these instructions in order to maintain
the natural paralinguistic cues in readers’ voices, so that
the readings would not sound artificial or strange to lis-
teners. Each actor read all 18 written pitches3 from
Experiment 1 out loud, and we later separated each
recorded pitch into its own sound file.
Evaluators were 265 visitors to the Museum of Science
and Industry in Chicago (mean age = 35.03 years, SD =
14.40; 124 males), who agreed to participate in exchange
for a food item. We targeted a sample of approximately
270 participants to serve as evaluators, so that approxi-
mately 3 participants would evaluate each version (four
actors’ renditions plus the candidate’s original written
version) of each of 18 job pitches. We collected as much
data as possible until the end of a scheduled room
reservation.
We randomly assigned participants serving as poten-
tial employers (evaluators) to one of three conditions:
Those in the writing condition read a written pitch, those
in the female-speaker condition listened to one of the
female actors reading a written pitch, and those in the
male-speaker condition listened to one of the male actors
reading a written pitch. Because prior research suggests
that people may evaluate the voice of a female differently
β = –0.04, SE = 0.21, p = .85
β = 0.78, SE =
0.04, p < .01
β = 0.59, SE =
0.07, p < .01
β = 0.81, SE =
0.33, p = .01 β = 0.36, SE =
0.21, p = .09
β = 0.51, SE =
0.07, p < .01
Intellect
(α = .88)
Impressions
(α = .87)
Experimental
Condition:
Audio vs. Text
Hiring
Likelihood
Fig. 4. Results from Experiment 2: mediation model testing the effect of experimental condition (audio condition
vs. transcript and writing conditions combined) on reported likelihood of hiring a job candidate, as mediated by
perceived intellect of the candidate and general impressions of the candidate.
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Speech Conveys Intellect 885
than the voice of a male (Brooks, Huang, Kearney, &
Murray, 2014; Eagly & Mladinic, 1989), although we had
observed no effects of the candidate’s gender in
Experiments 1 and 2, we randomly assigned evaluators to
separate gender conditions. We therefore unconfounded
the speaker’s gender from the pitch’s content so that we
could test for gender effects holding semantic content
constant. After reading or listening to a pitch, evaluators
answered the same survey items used in Experiment 1.
We averaged ratings to create composite measures of
intellect (α = .84) and general impressions (α = .80).
Results. Degrees of freedom in the statistical tests
reported vary slightly because some participants failed to
answer every survey item.
Evaluators’ judgments of the candidates’ intellect, their
general impressions of the candidates, and their reported
likelihood of hiring the candidates did not differ signifi-
cantly depending on whether the transcripts were read by
the first or second female actor, or by the first or second
male actor,4 ts < 1.70, ps > .09. We therefore collapsed across
the two actors of each gender in the following analyses.
As predicted, evaluators’ beliefs about the candidates’
intellect varied significantly by experimental condition,
F(2, 262) = 6.34, p < .01, η2 = .05. As indicated by the
standardized scores shown in Figure 5, evaluators judged
candidates to have greater intellect when they listened to
the female and male speakers (M = 2.36, SD = 1.59, and
M = 2.33, SD = 1.72, respectively) than when they read
the same pitches (M = 1.37, SD = 2.19), ts(262) = 3.29 and
3.21, ps < .01, 95% CIs of the difference = [0.38, 1.59] and
[0.33, 1.59], ds = 0.41 and 0.40. We observed weaker
effects of experimental condition on evaluators’ general
impressions of the candidates, F(2, 262) = 2.76, p = .07,
η2 = .02 (see Fig. 5). Evaluators had marginally more pos-
itive impressions when they listened to the female speak-
ers (M = 6.33, SD = 1.82) than when they read the same
pitches (M = 5.77, SD = 2.14), t(262) = 1.80, p = .07, 95%
CI of the difference = [−0.07, 1.21], d = 0.22. Evaluators
had more negative impressions of male speakers (M =
5.79, SD = 1.78) than of female speakers, t(262) = −2.12,
p = .04, 95% CI of the difference = [−1.03, −0.06], d = 0.26,
but evaluations of male speakers did not differ from eval-
uations of candidates whose written pitches were read,
t(262) < 1. Evaluators who listened to female speakers
also reported being more likely to hire the candidates
(M = 6.31, SD = 2.06) than did evaluators who read
pitches (M = 4.96, SD = 2.86), t(259) = 3.43, p < .01, 95%
CI of the difference = [0.56, 2.13], d = 0.42, and were
marginally more likely to hire the candidates than were
evaluators who listened to male speakers (M = 5.69, SD =
2.27), t(259) = 1.91, p = .06, 95% CI of the difference =
[0.02, 1.20], d = 0.24 (see Fig. 5). Evaluators who listened
to male speakers were also marginally more likely to hire
the candidates than were those who read the same
pitches, t(259) = 1.86, p = .06, 95% CI of the difference =
[−0.10, 1.56], d = 0.23.
When we combined the data from the male-speaker
and female-speaker conditions and compared evalua-
tions of written versus spoken pitches, we observed that
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0
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
Intellect General Impression Hiring Likelihood
Employers’ z-Scored Evaluation of Candidates
Writing
Male Speaker
Female Speaker
Fig. 5. Results from Experiment 3a: evaluators’ standardized ratings of the job candidates’
intellect, their general impressions of the candidates, and their likelihood of hiring the
candidates. Results are shown separately for the writing, male-speaker, and female-speaker
conditions. Error bars represent ±1 SEM.
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886 Schroeder, Epley
evaluators who listened to the pitches (n = 212) believed
the candidates had greater intellect than did evaluators
who read the same pitches (n = 53), t(262) = 3.57, p <
.01, 95% CI of the difference = [0.44, 1.51], d = 0.44. They
also reported being more likely to hire the candidates,
t(259) = 2.89, p < .01, 95% CI of the difference = [0.33,
1.75], d = 0.36. However, evaluators who listened to the
pitches did not have significantly more positive impres-
sions of the candidates than did evaluators who read the
pitches t(262) = 1.02, p = .31.
As in the prior experiments, and as shown in Figure 6,
evaluators’ beliefs about the candidates’ intellect and
their general impressions of the candidates sequentially
mediated the effect of condition—audio condition (male-
and female-speaker conditions combined, coded as 1)
versus writing condition (coded as 0)—on hiring judg-
ments. Including perceived intellect and general impres-
sions in the model made the effect of communication
medium nonsignificant (without the mediators: β = 1.04,
SE = 0.36, p < .01; with the mediators: β = 0.39, SE = 0.21,
p = .07). A 5,000-sample bootstrap test estimated that
intellect had a significant indirect effect of 0.46 (SE =
0.17, 95% CI = [0.15, 0.79]), that general impressions did
not have an indirect effect (indirect effect = −0.26, SE =
0.15, 95% CI = [−0.57, 0.03]), and that the two mediators
had a significant combined indirect effect of 0.45 (SE =
0.16, 95% CI = [0.15, 0.77]; MacKinnon etal., 2007).
Adding a human voice—whether male or female—to
written pitches made the job candidates seem to have
greater intellect, and increased reported interest in hiring
the candidates. Results for general impressions of the
candidates were less consistent, varying by the speaker’s
gender. We did not predict this variability, nor did we
observe it in any other experiment. It is therefore unclear
whether this result reflects something systematic about
variability in what the voice conveys, something about
manipulating a speaker’s voice while holding the original
author’s gender constant, or simply random variance of a
moderately sized effect across multiple experiments.
What is clear is that listening to pitches—even pitches
spoken by actors and not by the candidates who created
them—rather than reading the very same pitches affects
evaluations of the authors’ mental capacity. Once again,
we found that a person’s voice seems to reveal a mind
capable of thinking and reasoning.
Although the results of Experiment 3a are consistent
with our hypotheses, it is possible that they are accounted
for by some unique aspect of actors’ voices, such as
being particularly attractive (Zuckerman & Driver, 1989).
We therefore conducted a replication test in Experiment
3b, using speakers not uniquely selected for being actors.
Experiment 3b
Method. Eighteen visitors to the Museum of Science and
Industry in Chicago (11 males) each agreed to read one
job candidate’s written pitch in exchange for a food item.
Because we could not ask each visitor to read all 18
pitches, we were unable to orthogonally manipulate
reader’s gender as we did in Experiment 3a. Instead, we
matched each reader’s gender to the actual candidate’s
gender. Each reader received one hard copy of a job
candidate’s pitch. We gave the readers the same reading
instructions as in Experiment 3a and allowed them to
practice reading the pitch as many times as they wanted
before we recorded them.
The procedure for evaluators was similar to that in the
audio-pitch and written-pitch conditions in Experiment
3a. We predetermined that we needed a sample size of at
least 108 evaluators, approximately 3 participants for
each job candidate in each of the two conditions. Our
final sample was 135 online workers on Amazon
Mechanical Turk (mean age = 31.9 years, SD = 9.9; 87
males), who evaluated candidates in exchange for $0.30.
β = 0.67, SE =
0.06, p < .01
β = 0.95, SE =
0.27, p < .01
β = –0.38, SE =
0.22, p = .08
β = 0.49, SE =
0.06, p < .01
Intellect
(α = .84)
Impressions
(α = .80)
Experimental
Condition:
Audio vs. Writing
Hiring
Likelihood
β = 0.70, SE =
0.05, p < .01
β = 0.39, SE = 0.21, p = .07
Fig. 6. Results from Experiment 3a: mediation model testing the effect of experimental condition on reported
likelihood of hiring a job candidate, as mediated by perceived intellect of the candidate and general impressions
of the candidate.
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Speech Conveys Intellect 887
Evaluators either listened to a reader’s recording of a
pitch or read a candidate’s written pitch. Evaluators then
evaluated the candidates using the same survey used in
Experiment 1. We averaged ratings to create composite
measures of intellect (α = .92) and general impressions
(α = .85).
Results. As in Experiment 3a, evaluators who listened
to the pitches (n = 67) believed that the candidates had
greater intellect (M = 8.21, SD = 1.62), compared with
those who read the pitches (n = 68; M = 7.38, SD = 2.06),
t(133) = 2.60, p = .01, 95% CI of the difference = [0.20,
1.46], d = 0.45. They also had more positive impressions
of the candidates (M = 8.45, SD = 1.82, vs. M = 7.33, SD=
2.45), t(133) = 3.00, p < .01, 95% CI of the difference =
[0.38, 1.85], d = 0.52, and reported being more likely to
hire them (M = 7.85, SD = 2.25, vs. M = 6.74, SD = 3.00),
t(133) = 2.44, p = .02, 95% CI of the difference = [0.21,
2.02], d = 0.42. As in Experiments 1, 2, and 3a, beliefs
about the candidates’ intellect and general impressions of
them sequentially mediated the effect of condition (hear-
ing pitches vs. reading pitches) on hiring judgments.
Including perceived intellect and general impressions in
the model made the effect of communication medium
nonsignificant (without the mediators: β = 1.11, SE = 0.46,
p = .02; with the mediators: β = –0.10, SE = 0.23, p = .66).
A 5,000-sample bootstrap test estimated that perceived
intellect had a significant indirect effect of 0.41 (SE =
0.39, 95% CI = [0.10, 0.75]), that general impressions did
not have an indirect effect (indirect effect = 0.30, SE =
0.16, 95% CI = [−0.09, 0.65]), and that the two mediators
had a significant combined indirect effect of 0.51 (SE =
0.23, 95% CI = [0.12, 1.00]; MacKinnon etal., 2007). Thus,
even untrained readers convey a more capable mind
through their voices, making candidates seem more
appealing and employable.
Experiment 4: Professional Recruiters
Replicating our experiments by manipulating information
used in actual hiring decisions in real firms would be
unethical, but we got closer to an ecologically valid test
of our hypotheses in Experiment 4 by examining whether
the same patterns observed in Experiments 1 through 3b
would be replicated if the evaluators were expert recruit-
ers. In their jobs, the professional recruiters in Experiment
4 were charged with actually hiring from the very same
sample of M.B.A. students who made job pitches in our
experiment.
Method
Participants. Thirty-nine professional recruiters (mean
age = 30.85 years, SD = 6.24; 9 males) from Fortune 500
companies voluntarily agreed to evaluate pitches of job
candidates from the University of Chicago Booth School
of Business. These recruiters had attended a conference
at the University of Chicago and were e-mailed afterward
to request their participation. We initially e-mailed all 66
recruiters who had attended the conference and then
extended a second, personal invitation to those who did
not respond to the first e-mail. We did not continue our
unsolicited request for participation beyond the second
e-mail out of professional courtesy. Our target sample
was every participant at the conference. We included all
recruiters who completed the survey in the following
analyses.
Procedure. Because we knew that our sample of evalu-
ators would be smaller than in the previous experiments,
we randomly selected three job candidates’ spoken
pitches from Experiment 1 to use as stimuli. In an online
survey, we randomly assigned recruiters to either listen to
one of the spoken pitches (audio condition) or read the
transcription of one of those pitches (transcript condi-
tion). We recorded how long each recruiter spent on the
survey page with the stimulus. The recruiters then
answered the same survey items as in Experiment 1, with
one change: All responses were recorded on Likert scales
labeled from 0 to 10. Finally, because this experiment
was conducted online, we also asked the recruiters to
complete a memory test in which they reported “every-
thing you can remember about the pitch the MBA stu-
dent gave.” This memory test allowed us to evaluate a
possible alternative interpretation of our observed results
based on the amount of information remembered when
listening compared with reading. We averaged ratings to
create composite measures of intellect (α = .92) and gen-
eral impressions (α = .93).
Results
The pattern of evaluations by professional recruiters rep-
licated the pattern observed in Experiments 1 through 3b
(see Fig. 7). In particular, the recruiters believed that the
job candidates had greater intellect—were more compe-
tent, thoughtful, and intelligent—when they listened to
pitches (M = 5.63, SD = 1.61) than when they read pitches
(M = 3.65, SD = 1.91), t(37) = 3.53, p < .01, 95% CI of the
difference = [0.85, 3.13], d = 1.16. The recruiters also
formed more positive impressions of the candidates—
rated them as more likeable and had a more positive and
less negative impression of them—when they listened to
pitches (M = 5.97, SD = 1.92) than when they read pitches
(M = 4.07, SD = 2.23), t(37) = 2.85, p < .01, 95% CI of the
difference = [0.55, 3.24], d = 0.94. Finally, they also
reported being more likely to hire the candidates when
they listened to pitches (M = 4.71, SD = 2.26) than when
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888 Schroeder, Epley
they read the same pitches (M = 2.89, SD = 2.06), t(37) =
2.62, p < .01, 95% CI of the difference = [0.41, 3.24], d =
0.86.
Unlike in the prior experiments, however, the evalua-
tors’ beliefs about the candidates’ intellect and their gen-
eral impressions of the candidates only partially mediated
the effect of communication medium (audio condition
vs. transcript condition, coded 1 and 0, respectively) on
hiring decisions (Fig. 8). When intellect and general
impression were included in the model, the effect of
communication medium became nonsignificant (without
the mediators: β = 1.83, SE = 0.70, p = .01; with the medi-
ators: β = −0.04, SE = 0.52, p = .94). A 5,000-sample boot-
strap test estimated that perceived intellect had a
significant indirect effect of 1.30 (SE = 0.54, 95% CI =
[0.37, 2.47]), but that general impressions (95% CI =
[−0.30, 0.40]) and the two mediators combined (95% CI =
[−0.14, 1.40]) did not have an indirect effect (MacKinnon
etal., 2007). It appears that our professional recruiters, in
contrast to the evaluators in Experiments 1 through 3b,
based their interest in hiring more heavily on their per-
ceptions of intellect alone than on joint considerations of
intellect and general impressions. But just as in the previ-
ous experiments, those perceptions were influenced by
the presence or absence of a candidate’s voice.
Finally, the recruiters did not spend significantly differ-
ent amounts of time engaging with the stimuli in the
audio condition (M = 173.85 s, SD = 145.97) and the
transcript condition (M = 137.86 s, SD = 197.49), t(37) =
0.65, p = .52, d = 0.21. Although 6 recruiters did not
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Intellect General Impression Hiring Likelihood
Recruiters’ Evaluation of Candidates
Audio
Transcript
Fig. 7. Results from Experiment 4: professional recruiters’ ratings of the job candi-
dates’ intellect, their general impressions of the candidates, and their likelihood of
hiring the candidates. Results are shown separately for the audio and transcript condi-
tions. Error bars represent ±1 SEM.
β = –0.04, SE = 0.52, p = .94
= 0.93, SE =
0.12, p < .01
β = 0.30, SE =
0.18, p = .11
β = 1.99, SE =
0.56, p < .01
β = 0.06, SE =
0.48, p = .91
β = 0.66, SE =
0.21, p < .01
Intellect
(α = .92)
Impressions
(α = .93)
Experimental
Condition:
Audio vs. Transcript
Hiring
Likelihood
Fig. 8. Results from Experiment 4: mediation model testing the effect of experimental condition on
reported likelihood of hiring a job candidate, as mediated by perceived intellect of the candidate and gen-
eral impressions of the candidate.
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Speech Conveys Intellect 889
complete the memory test, those who did complete it
wrote similar amounts about the candidates in the audio
condition (M = 53.94 words, SD = 30.06) and the tran-
script condition (M = 58.67 words, SD = 15.07), t(31) =
−0.55, p = .59, d = 0.20.
If voice affected evaluations only of novice employers,
then our results would be of more theoretical interest
than practical importance. However, we obtained the
same results among the very recruiters whose job it was
to hire from the same sample of M.B.A. students who
provided the elevator pitches, and who were relative
experts in evaluating job candidates. Whereas some evi-
dence suggests that experience reduces decision-making
biases (e.g., List, 2003), the effect size we observed for
hiring interest was actually larger among professional
recruiters (d = 0.86) than among novice recruiters in the
equivalent conditions in Experiments 1 and 2 (ds = 0.40
and 0.32). Unfortunately, our sample in Experiment 4
contained only a restricted set of randomly selected
pitches from our larger set, and so these effect sizes are
not perfectly comparable. At the very least, however,
Experiment 4 demonstrates that the effect of voice does
not appear to disappear among hiring experts. Our
results may be of practical, and not just theoretical,
importance.
General Discussion
The words that come out of a person’s mouth convey the
presence of a thoughtful mind more clearly than the
words typed by a person’s hands—even when those
words are identical. Across five experiments, evaluators
who listened to job pitches were consistently more inter-
ested in hiring the candidates than were evaluators who
read identical pitches. A person’s voice communicates
not only the content of his or her thinking, but also the
humanlike capacity for thinking.
These results would apparently be surprising to the
speakers themselves. In Experiment 1, we asked three
separate samples of job candidates to predict how they
would be judged, and none expected that their spoken
pitches would convey significantly greater intellect than
their written pitches. Practically, such expectations matter
because they may affect how job candidates approach
employers. If candidates are unaware of how the com-
munication medium affects the impression they convey,
then they will be just as likely to write to employers as to
speak with them. Theoretically, these expectations matter
because they suggest that the underlying mechanisms
responsible for conveying a person’s mental capacities
are surprising rather than obvious.
We believe that our experiments raise three interesting
avenues for further research. First, speech may reveal the
presence of a thoughtful mind, but our experiments do
not identify which paralinguistic cues of speech do so.
Prior research using a broader set of mental-capacity
measures (Schroeder & Epley, 2015) suggests that pitch
variance, or intonation, plays a significant role. Just as
variance in motion (i.e., movement) is a cue that reveals
the presence of biological life, variance in pitch may
reveal the presence of an active and lively mind. Pitch
variance can convey enthusiasm, interest, and active
deliberation, whereas a monotone voice sounds dull and
mindless. Indeed, one reason why text may not convey a
person’s intellect is that readers do not spontaneously
add pitch variance or other paralinguistic cues into writ-
ten text. Identifying the cues that convey a person’s mind
through speech is essential for understanding moderators
of the effects we observed.
Second, Experiment 1 suggests that being able to see
a candidate may have no additional impact on evalua-
tions of intellect above and beyond the impact of being
able to hear the candidate. Although a person’s body lan-
guage (e.g., Imada & Hakel, 1977; Stewart, Dustin,
Barrick, & Darnold, 2008), demographics (e.g., Bertrand
& Mullainathan, 2003; Biernat & Kobrynowicz, 1997;
Glick, Zion, & Nelson, 1988), and appearance (Borkenau
& Liebler, 1993; Murphy, 2007) can affect evaluations,
these prior experiments did not pit the importance of
visual cues against vocal cues in the same experiment;
instead, visual cues were manipulated in the absence of
any vocal cues. Our experiments suggest that a person’s
voice could be uniquely equipped to communicate other-
wise invisible mental capacities, but our experiments
were also not designed to test the relative impact of visual
and vocal cues. We suggest that a person’s mental capaci-
ties, such as intellect, may be conveyed more strongly
through speech than through body cues partly because
body cues lack the semantic content inherent in spoken
or text-based language. More experiments that directly
compare different communication media are needed to
clearly identify the independent influences of visual and
auditory cues on inferences about other people’s minds.
Finally, our experiments raise practical implications for
people who are trying to reveal their thoughtful mind to
others (e.g., job candidates). Not only inexperienced
evaluators but also professional recruiters were influ-
enced by a candidate’s voice. Although text-based com-
munication media, such as e-mail, may provide quick
and easy ways to connect with potential employers, our
experiments suggest that voiceless communication comes
with an unexpected inferential cost. A person’s voice, it
seems, carries the sound of intellect.
Author Contributions
J. Schroeder and N. Epley developed the hypotheses and
experiments to test them. J. Schroeder created materials, over-
saw data collection, and conducted data analyses under the
at UNIV CALIFORNIA BERKELEY LIB on July 20, 2015pss.sagepub.comDownloaded from
890 Schroeder, Epley
supervision of N. Epley. J. Schroeder and N. Epley wrote the
manuscript. Both authors approved the final version of the
manuscript for submission.
Acknowledgments
We thank Kaushal Addanki, Julia Arozena, Jesus Diaz, Janet
Flores, Jasmine Kwong, Justin Liang, Paul Lou, Sean Alexander
McWillie, Rachel Meng, Sarah Molouki, Michael Pang, Megan
Porter, Emily Shaw, Lester Tong, Sherry Tseng, and Emily
Wolodiger for assistance conducting experiments. We are also
grateful to the University of Chicago Career Services for enabling
us to connect with professional recruiters.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The authors declared that they had no conflicts of interest with
respect to their authorship or the publication of this article.
Funding
This research was supported by the Booth School of Business.
Supplemental Material
Additional supporting information can be found at http://pss
.sagepub.com/content/by/supplemental-data
Open Practices
All the data and some of the materials for these experiments
have been made publicly available via Open Science Framework
and can be accessed at https://osf.io/e3afr/. Because the stimuli
contain identifying information, it would violate participants’
confidentiality to post them on a public Web site. To obtain the
stimuli for use in scientific research, please e-mail either Juliana
Schroeder (jschroeder@chicagobooth.edu) or Nicholas Epley
(epley@chicagobooth.edu). The complete Open Practices
Disclosure for this article can be found at http://pss.sagepub
.com/content/by/supplemental-data. This article has received
the badge for Open Data. More information about the Open
Practices badges can be found at https://osf.io/tvyxz/wiki/
view/ and http://pss.sagepub.com/content/25/1/3.full.
Notes
1. We arrived at these suggested time limits by asking two
M.B.A. students to create spoken and written pitches without
any time restrictions and then timing how long it took for them
to speak and write these pitches.
2. One research assistant transcribed the spoken pitches, and
a second checked the transcriptions for accuracy. In order to
make the transcripts more readable, we removed verbal filler
words unless their exclusion changed a sentence’s meaning.
3. We slightly modified the pitches for this experiment by
removing salutations (e.g., “Dear Employer”) and signatures
(e.g., “Sincerely, X”) from the letters in order to facilitate trans-
lation to voice.
4. Three participants rated their candidate’s intellect and their
general impressions of the candidate, but not their likelihood
of hiring the candidate.
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Quam bellum est velle confiteri potius nescire quod nescias, quam ista effutientem nauseare, atque ipsum sibi displicere.