March 09, 2006

Women can infer men's characteristics by listening to their voices

Proc Biol Sci. 2006 Jan 7;273(1582):83-9.

Women use voice parameters to assess men's characteristics.

Bruckert L, Lienard JS, Lacroix A, Kreutzer M, Leboucher G.

The purpose of this study was: (i) to provide additional evidence regarding the existence of human voice parameters, which could be reliable indicators of a speaker's physical characteristics and (ii) to examine the ability of listeners to judge voice pleasantness and a speaker's characteristics from speech samples. We recorded 26 men enunciating five vowels. Voices were played to 102 female judges who were asked to assess vocal attractiveness and speakers' age, height and weight. Statistical analyses were used to determine: (i) which physical component predicted which vocal component and (ii) which vocal component predicted which judgment. We found that men with low-frequency formants and small formant dispersion tended to be older, taller and tended to have a high level of testosterone. Female listeners were consistent in their pleasantness judgment and in their height, weight and age estimates. Pleasantness judgments were based mainly on intonation. Female listeners were able to correctly estimate age by using formant components. They were able to estimate weight but we could not explain which acoustic parameters they used. However, female listeners were not able to estimate height, possibly because they used intonation incorrectly. Our study confirms that in all mammal species examined thus far, including humans, formant components can provide a relatively accurate indication of a vocalizing individual's characteristics. Human listeners have the necessary information at their disposal; however, they do not necessarily use it.


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