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:

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.
Research pinpoints optimal age of puppy cuteness
Canine researcher Clive Wynne's research reveals more about the depth and origin of the human-dog relationship.
More Attractiveness News and Attractiveness Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#540 Specialize? Or Generalize?
Ever been called a "jack of all trades, master of none"? The world loves to elevate specialists, people who drill deep into a single topic. Those people are great. But there's a place for generalists too, argues David Epstein. Jacks of all trades are often more successful than specialists. And he's got science to back it up. We talk with Epstein about his latest book, "Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.