Summary: A new study revealed the important role of tone of voice in shaping social perceptions in different cultures. The study involved more than 3,100 participants from 22 countries who evaluated voice recordings for attractiveness, formidableness, and prestige.
Lower voice pitch was universally preferred for long-term relationships and was associated with greater formidableability and prestige in men. This cross-cultural research highlights the evolutionary roots of how voice tone affects social status and mate selection, highlighting its importance in human interaction and social mobility.
- The lower tone of voice is preferred worldwide for long-term relationships and signals higher social status and formidability in men.
- The study’s findings are consistent across 22 countries, suggesting a universal aspect of human psychology related to perceptions of voice tone.
- The impact of tone of voice on social evaluations is influenced by social factors such as relational mobility and violence rates, indicating its adaptability to social environments.
Fountain: State of Pennsylvania
If you’re looking for a long-term relationship or to improve your social status, tone it down, according to researchers who study the effects of voice tone on social perceptions.
They found that a lower pitch of voice makes women and men sound more attractive to potential long-term partners, and a lower pitch of voice in men makes the individual sound more formidable and prestigious among other men.
The results of the cross-cultural study, published in the journal psychological scienceThey have implications for understanding human evolution and how people today confer and evaluate social status.
“Vocal communication is one of the most important human characteristics, and pitch is the most noticeable aspect of the voice,” said David Puts, co-author of the study and professor of anthropology at Penn State.
“Understanding how tone of voice influences social perceptions can help us understand social relationships more broadly, how we achieve social status, how we evaluate others based on social status, and how we choose a partner.”
To study how voice tone influences social perceptions, the researchers selected two male and two female voice recordings, all repeating the same phrase. They edited the clips to produce the average pitch for the speaker’s sex plus a higher and lower version of each voice, for a total of 12 clips, and divided the clips into male-male and female-female pairs.
The researchers then asked more than 3,100 participants from 22 countries, representing five continents and New Zealand, to listen to the paired recordings and answer questions about whose voice sounded more attractive, flirtatious, formidable and prestigious.
The researchers found that women and men preferred lower voices when asked which voice they would prefer for a long-term relationship, such as marriage. They also found that a lower male voice pitch made the individual sound more formidable, especially among younger men, and more prestigious, particularly among older men.
Perceptions of formidableness and prestige had a greater impact in societies with greater relational mobility (where group members interact more often with strangers) and more violence.
“We looked at the homicide rate as a way to quantify the degree of physical violence in a society, which was likely an important factor in the reproductive success of our male ancestors,” Puts said, explaining that human males often experienced threats of violence. in competition for power. Peers and those who were bigger (or looked bigger) tended to be more successful.
“Human males have sexual traits, such as upper body muscle mass, that appear to have been shaped by men’s use of force or the threat of force to gain mating opportunities. A low tone of voice exaggerates size. “It makes an organism, whether a person or a non-human primate, appear large and intimidating.”
The fact that study participants across cultures perceived a lower male voice pitch as conferring formidableness and high social status suggests that these characteristics were probably also conferred on our ancestors, Puts said.
He compared the effect to that of Darth Vader’s voice in the Star Wars franchise: no matter where the character goes in the galaxy, his low pitch is perceived as formidable because larger beings tend to produce lower frequencies.
“The findings suggest that deep voices evolved in males because our male ancestors frequently interacted with competitors who were strangers, and show how we can use evolutionary thinking and non-human animal research to predict and understand how our psychology and behavior vary in social contexts, even cross-culturally,” Puts said.
“Masculine traits, such as deep voices and beards, are highly socially salient, but this new research shows that the salience of at least one of these traits varies predictably across societies, and suggests that others, such as beards, they do it too”.
Additionally, the researchers found that men perceived women with higher-pitched voices as more attractive for short-term relationships, and women perceived higher voices as more flirtatious and more attractive to men.
According to the researchers, in societies with lower relational mobility, where group members are more likely to know each other, women may perceive these flirtatious voices as a threat to existing social networks.
“Female secondary sexual traits, such as voice, seem to be much better designed for mate attraction rather than physically threatening each other,” Puts said.
“We found that we could use relational mobility to predict women’s sensitivity to high pitched voices in competitors.
“Sensitivity may have been greater in societies with lower relational mobility because flirtatious behavior is not only a threat to the romantic relationship but also to friendships.”
A common misconception is that early humans lived only in small-scale societies where everyone knew each other, Puts said. This was sometimes true, but ethnographic and archaeological records show that group sizes were often large.
Although many people lived in small societies, he added, there is growing evidence to suggest that they periodically joined other groups to form large-scale societies numbering in the hundreds or thousands. They sometimes lived in these larger groups for months at a time and maintained these social networks even when they returned to living in smaller communities.
“This study suggests that tone of voice is relevant to social perceptions in all societies,” Puts said.
“But it also shows that the degree of attention we pay to the tone of the voice when making social attributions varies according to society and responds to relevant sociocultural variables.
“In a society where there is greater relational mobility and you have less direct information about your competitors, people seem to be more attentive to an easily identifiable and recognizable signal such as tone of voice.”
In addition to Puts, other Penn State contributors include former undergraduate and graduate students Toe Aung, first author and now an assistant professor at Immaculata University; Alexander Hill, associate professor of teaching at the University of Washington; Jessica Hlay, PhD candidate at Boston University; Catherine Hess, currently at SanTan Behavioral Health; Michael Hess, currently with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection; Janie Johnson; Leslie doll; Sara Carlson, currently market research manager at Penn State; Carolina Magdinec; and Collin Garr, currently at Unilever Food Solutions. Additional contributors represent colleges and universities from the United States, Mexico, Canada, India, New Zealand, Scotland, Netherlands, Chile, Singapore, Germany, Brazil and China.
About this social perception research news
Author: Francisco Tutela
Fountain: State of Pennsylvania
Contact: Francisco Tutella – Penn State
Image: Image is credited to Neuroscience News.
Original research: Open access.
“The effects of tone of voice on social perceptions vary depending on relational mobility and homicide rateby David Puts et al. psychological science
The effects of tone of voice on social perceptions vary depending on relational mobility and homicide rate
Fundamental frequency ( Foh) is the most perceptually salient vocal acoustic parameter, yet little is known about how its perceptual influence varies across societies.
We examine how Foh affects key social perceptions and how socioecological variables modulate these effects in 2,647 adult listeners sampled in 44 locations in 22 countries.
low male Foh Increased men’s perceptions of formidableness and prestige, especially in societies with higher homicide rates and greater relational mobility in which male intrasexual competition may be more intense and rapid identification of high-status competitors may be demanding.
tall woman Foh Women’s perceptions of flirtatiousness increased where relational mobility was lower and threats to mating relationships may be greater.
These results indicate that the influence ofFoh Social perceptions depend on socioecological variables, including those related to competition for status and mate.