European researchers have found that women “tend to lower their voices when competing sexually for a man.” Their findings, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, provide valuable information about human courtship.
To figure this out — though are you really that surprised? — the researchers observed the behaviors of 30 heterosexual singles between the ages of 20 and 40 for two speed-dating events.
The researchers expected that the male participants might introduce a deeper voice when speaking to the female participants. But they were surprised to find that women also tend to drop their vocal registers, settling into a huskier version of their own voices when speaking to potential male mates.
The authors of the study wrote:
“Our results contradict the prediction that women ubiquitously feminize their voices towards preferred potential mates. Moreover … men preferred women who spoke with a lower minimum pitch.”
The participants were asked to answer “yes” or “no” to a hypothetical relationship, and the participant behind them was able to see their date’s voting history.
As The New York Post observed:
“While women reserved their perceived sexier voices for the men they personally found desirable, they only did so if other women had previously agreed — indicating that the woman’s voice is also a weapon in mating competition.”
And the researchers say that the “capacity for women and men to dynamically alter their voice pitch therefore has the potential to affect reproductive success, but beyond this, it may function to manipulate the perceptions and behaviors of others in a wide range of social, economic and political contexts.”
There have been other studies that came to similar conclusions.
Two University of Arizona professors found that women prefer huskier-voiced mates and will try a lower tone to compete with other women for the same men. The researchers noted that other women have mimicked what they hear in the media — female broadcasters, for example, lower their voices on air to sound more authoritative.
“The notion is that women … are modeling their voices after the women they see and hear in the media, as opposed to … mothers, aunts and neighbor women,” said Carol Ann Valentine, one of the researchers at the time.
“Women’s voices are not as authoritative or as credible. They are not perceived as knowledgeable, partly because of pitch.”
Research also shows that competition between men drove the evolution of deeper voices.
In 2016, a paper also published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B by a team of researchers posited that there was less difference between male and female voices as men evolved to become more monogamous.
“If you look at what men’s traits are designed for, they look much better designed for intimidating other males than for attracting females,” said lead researcher Dr. David Puts of Pennsylvania State University.
An analysis of 1,721 recordings of vocalizations from humans, other apes, and monkeys from the Americas and Asia revealed a much greater difference between males and females in species where males mate with more than one female, suggesting that males with lower-pitched voices have the edge because their rivals view them as intimidating.