Nav: Home

Deep male voices not so much sexy as intimidating

May 05, 2016

Male voices are not deeply pitched in order to attract female mates, but instead serve to intimidate the competition, according to a team of researchers studying a wide variety of primates including humans.

"We wanted to determine if sexual selection had produced sex differences in humans and closely related species," said David A. Puts, associate professor of anthropology, Penn State. "If similar vocal sex differences appear across species with similar levels of mating competition, then we infer that sexual selection produced these sex differences."

The researchers conducted three studies and found that a deep-pitched male voice was seen as dominant by other males, but had a smaller impact on attracting females. They also found that the sexual dimorphism of vocal pitch -- how different the two sexes were -- was greater in humans than in any other ape species measured in their study. They report their results in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

"We find that masculine traits in humans are not the same as, say, in peacocks where the beautiful tail attracts a mate," said Puts. "For example, beards make men more dominant looking, scarier and seemingly more dangerous, but most women prefer clean-shaven men." Human male traits imply physical aggression and formidability and seem to provide competitive advantages in fighting or threatening other men more than they help attract women.

The researchers first looked at the fundamental frequency of male voices across the anthropoid primates -- those most closely related to humans, including gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans. Fundamental frequency is the average rate of vocal-fold vibrations. They used 1,721 vocal calls, free of background noise, from individuals of known species, sex and adult status. They used mating systems --monogamous, promiscuous or polygynous -- as a proxy for the intensity of sexual selection. Promiscuity differs from monogamy and polygyny in that females more frequently have multiple sex partners, which makes predictions of sexual dimorphism more difficult. In polygynous species, some males can monopolize many mates leaving other males unmated. This tends to make sexual selection more intense in polygynous species than in monogamous ones. Anthropologists classify humans as moderately polygynous.

The researchers found that the differences in fundamental frequency between sexes decreased toward monogamy and increased toward polygyny.

Next the researchers looked at 258 female and 175 male college students who read a standard passage that was recorded without any background sounds. Then 558 women and 568 men rated the recordings. Each female recording was rated by 15 men for the potential for short- and long-term romantic attractiveness using a standard rating system. Each male recording was rated by 15 men for dominance and 15 women for short- and long-term romantic attractiveness.

The researchers found that fundamental frequency predicted men's perceived dominance over other men, and to a lesser degree their attractiveness to women, but that it did not predict women's attractiveness to men for either short- or long-term romantic relationships. The researchers then recorded 53 women and groups of 62 and 58 men and tested their saliva for cortisol and testosterone. In women, there was no connection between vocal pitch and either cortisol or testosterone.

"For both groups of men, high testosterone levels and low cortisol levels occurred in men with low fundamental vocal frequency" said Puts.

This is a pattern that has been shown to predict male dominance, attractiveness and immune function.
-end-
Other researchers from Penn State working on this project were Alexander K. Hill, now at the University of Washington; John R. Wheatley, graduate student in anthropology; Nina G. Jablonski, Evan Pugh University Professor of Anthropology; Mark D. Shriver, professor of anthropology; Rodrigo Cárdenas, lecturer in psychology; Daniel Weiss, associate professor of psychology and linguistics and Khytam Dawood, senior lecturer in psychology.

Researchers from other institutions include Drew H Bailey, University of California, Irvine; Robert S. Walker, University of Missouri; Drew Rendall, University of Lethbridge; Lisa L.M. Welling, Oakland University; Robert P. Burriss, Northumbria University; Adriano R. Lameira, Durham University; Coren L Apicella, University of Pennsylvania; Michael J. Owren, Emory University; Claudia Barelli, Museo delle Scienze, Trento, Italy; Mary E. Glenn, Humbolt State University; and Gabriel Ramos-Fernandez, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico.

The National Institutes of Mental Health and the National Science Foundation supported this work.

Penn State

Related Attractiveness Articles:

Unattainable standards of beauty for today's woman
While the average American woman's waist circumference and dress size has increased over the past 20 years, Victoria's Secret fashion models have become more slender, with a decrease in bust, waist, hips and dress size, though their waist to hip ratio (WHR) has remained constant.
Study finds companies may be wise to share cybersecurity efforts
Research finds that when one company experiences a cybersecurity breach, other companies in the same field also become less attractive to investors.
Kindness is a top priority in a long-term partner according to a new international study
One of the top qualities that we look for in a long-term partner is kindness, according to new research by Swansea University.
What do the red 'ornaments' of female macaques mean?
Scientists demonstrated that, contrary to what had been assumed for several years, colour variations among female macaques do not precisely indicate the time of ovulation.
Backed in black: How to get people to buy more produce
Researchers may have figured out the secret to get people to buy more fresh produce: dress veggies up in black.
Facial plastic surgery in men enhances perception of attractiveness, trustworthiness
In the first of a kind study, plastic surgeons at Georgetown University found that when a man chose to have facial plastic surgery, it significantly increased perceptions of attractiveness, likeability, social skills, or trustworthiness.
Is facial cosmetic surgery associated with perception changes for attractiveness, masculinity, personality traits in men?
Photographs of 24 men before and after facial cosmetic surgery were part of this survey study to examine whether surgery was associated with perceived changes in attractiveness, masculinity and a variety of personality traits.
Commentary asks: What constitutes beauty and how is it perceived?
Beauty has many facets. Research shows there are many biological, psychological, cultural and social aspects that influence how beauty and attractiveness are perceived.
Gender bias sways how we perceive competence in faces
Faces that are seen as competent are also perceived as more masculine, according to research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
Sydney to move away from CBD model
Sydney may soon undergo a transition from a monocentric city with sprawling suburbs radiating from one CBD, to a polycentric model -- one marked by several sub-centres -- according to a recent study led by a multidisciplinary team at the University of Sydney.
More Attractiveness News and Attractiveness Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.