Her Voice is Hot - His is Not
Albright College Study Examines What Happens When We Try to Manipulate Our Voice to Attract a Mate
March 25, 2014
Reading, Pa. – Trying to sound sexier?
Sorry, guys, it seems you just don’t have what it takes.
research by Albright College associate professor of psychology Susan Hughes,
Ph.D., suggests that men cannot intentionally make their voices sound more sexy
or attractive, while women have little trouble. And true to the stereotype,
women will lower their pitch and increase their hoarseness to dial up the
ability may be due to culture and cuts across cultures and time,” said Hughes,
an expert in evolutionary psychology and voice perception. “There is a
stereotype of what is a sexual voice in our culture – a low, breathy voice.”
findings are part of a larger study and outlined in Hughes’s article “The
Perception and Parameters of Intentional Voice Manipulation,” appearing in this
month’s Journal of Nonverbal Behavior. The
research examines the patterns that emerge when men and women intentionally
modify their voices to project four traits related to mate selection and
competition – sexiness/attractiveness, dominance, intelligence and confidence –
and how others perceive these manipulations. The study is co-authored by
Albright alumnus Justin Mogilski ’11 and Marissa Harrison, Ph.D., assistant
psychology professor at Penn State University’s Harrisburg campus.
study, 40 participants (20 men, 20 women) provided intentionally manipulated
voice samples for the desired traits, plus a normal speech sample. Each sample
consisted of participants counting from one to 10. Another 40 people assessed
the degree to which each sample effectively projected the given trait.
researchers found that women could make their voices sound more attractive, but
men could not. “In fact, although not significantly, it got a bit worse when
men tried to sound sexy,” said Hughes. The difference may be rooted in mate
selection, according to the study. Women know that men place greater emphasis
on attractiveness when choosing a partner, and that voice attractiveness can
predict physical attractiveness. Thus, it is beneficial for women to sound
sexier to enhance their value to potential mates and to stave off competition
from rival females.
analyses of the samples revealed that both sexes slowed their speech to sound
sexy/attractive, while women also lowered their pitch and increased their
hoarseness. Ironically, men prefer higher-pitch females, but a woman will
signal her interest in a man by intentionally dropping her voice, said Hughes.
study found that both sexes can manipulate their voices to sound more
intelligent. Women, however, could not sound more confident. Men could, but
only when judged by female raters. This may be true, according to the study,
because it’s important for men to project confidence to women (and for women to
perceive it), since confidence can indicate financial and personal success,
which women value in a potential partner. Men, on the other hand, may be more
attuned to detecting male posturing and more inclined to underrate their
were surprised to find that both men and women could equally and effectively
manipulate their voices to sound more dominant. This may indicate a cultural
shift. As more women enter traditionally male-dominated roles and leadership
positions, they may choose to modify their voices to sound more formidable. As
example, the study points to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher,
who received vocal training to sound more domineering when coming into office.
authors believe the study could have practical applications for vocal coaching,
including in the fields of public speaking and acting, and in more effectively
communicating with an audience.
study was part of undergraduate research conducted by Mogilski while at
Albright. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in evolutionary psychology at
Oakland University in Rochester, Minn.
in 1856, Albright College is a selective, national liberal arts college
enrolling 1,700 full-time undergraduates and more than 800 adult learners and
graduate students. The College’s flexible interdisciplinary curriculum,
strengthened by a close-knit residential learning environment, encourages
students to combine majors and disciplines to create individualized academic
programs. Close faculty mentorship, numerous experiential learning options, and
a diverse, supportive community of scholars and learners help students exceed
their own expectations and graduate with a commitment to a lifetime of service
and learning. Albright College is located in Reading, Pennsylvania.
College. A Different Way of Thinking.