Nav: Home

Social status of listener alters our voice

June 29, 2017

People tend to change the pitch of their voice depending on who they are talking to, and how dominant they feel, a study by the University of Stirling has found.

The psychology research, published in PLOS ONE, put participants through a simulated job interview task and discovered that individuals' vocal characteristics - particularly pitch - are altered in response to people of different social status.

Regardless of self-perceived social status, people tend to talk to high status individuals using a higher pitch.

Dr Viktoria Mileva, a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Stirling, said: "A deep, masculine voice sounds dominant, especially in men, while the opposite is true of a higher pitched voice. So, if someone perceives their interviewer to be more dominant than them, they raise their pitch. This may be a signal of submissiveness, to show the listener that you are not a threat, and to avoid possible confrontations.

"These changes in our speech may be conscious or unconscious but voice characteristics appear to be an important way to communicate social status. We found both men and women alter their pitch in response to people they think are dominant and prestigious."

The researchers also found that participants who think they are dominant - who use methods like manipulation, coercion, and intimidation to acquire social status - are less likely to vary their pitch and will speak in a lower tone when talking to someone of a high social status.

Individuals who rate themselves as high in prestige - they believe people look up to them and value their opinions, thereby granting them social status - do not change how loud they are speaking, no matter who they are speaking to. This may signal that they are more calm and in control of a situation.

The participants responded to introductory, personal, and interpersonal interview questions. They lowered the pitch of their voice most in response to the more complex, interpersonal questions, for example when explaining a conflict situation to an employer.

Dr Mileva added: "Signals and perceptions of human social status have an effect on virtually every human interaction, ranging from morphological characteristics - such as face shape - to body posture, specific language use, facial expressions and voices.

"Understanding what these signals are, and what their effects are, will help us comprehend an essential part of human behaviour."

Experts believe the vocal changes identified in this study could be true for other situations where there are perceived social status differences between two people talking. This includes talking with a rival on the football pitch or interacting with a colleague.
-end-
Read more in The Conversation.

University of Stirling

Related Social Status Articles:

Social grooming factors influencing social media civility on COVID-19
A new study analyzing tweets about COVID-19 found that users with larger social networks tend to use fewer uncivil remarks when they have more positive responses from others.
The status of women
What drives people seek to high social status? A common evolutionary explanation suggests men do so because, in the past, they were able to leverage their social position into producing more children and propagating their genes.
Social isolation during adolescence drives long-term disruptions in social behavior
Mount Sinai Researchers find social isolation during key developmental windows drives long term changes to activity patterns of neurons involved in initiating social approach in an animal model.
How status sticks to genes
Life at the bottom of the social ladder may have long-term health effects that even upward mobility can't undo, according to new research in monkeys.
Cold temperatures linked to high status
Researchers have discovered that people associate cold temperatures with luxury items, which is important for companies that are trying to promote products that convey high status.
Social media stress can lead to social media addiction
Social network users risk becoming more and more addicted to social media platforms even as they experience stress from their use.
Cooperation with high status individuals may increase one's own status
While other animals tend to gain status through aggression, humans are typically averse to allowing such dominant individuals to achieve high status.
Legal status no guarantee of job security
Legal status is no guarantee that migrants will find more security in the workplace, according to a new study published in the journal Migration Letters.
Pheromones and social status: Machos smell better
Male house mice are territorial and scent-mark their territories with urine -- and dominant, territorial males have much greater reproductive success than other males.
Migrants face a trade-off between status and fertility
Researchers from the universities of Helsinki, Turku and Missouri as well as the Family Federation of Finland present the first results from a new, extraordinarily comprehensive population-wide dataset that details the lives of over 160,000 World War II evacuees in terms of integration.
More Social Status News and Social Status 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

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
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

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.