Wednesday, October 03, 2007

How low can you go?

I have to admit, this is a minor factor in my attraction to men. It's one of the things that can make a bad first impression. There are several men I've met from online dating who seemed likeable in e-mail but went downhill once I talked to them.

Sadly, it's one of the things that is not so exciting about Tim. His voice is somewhat childlike. Even he acknowledges that he does not like his voice because it is higher pitched than he prefers. There were definitely former boyfriends' voice that I loved hearing when I talked with them on the phone or listened to their voicemail messages.

So is there some parallel rule with women? I can imagine how a very low voice would scare some men. I know of a few women who have particularly high voices. They either sound like they are little girls or have sucked a bit of helium. It's like listening to nails on a chalkboard at times.

I wonder what these native peoples think of us foreigners running all these "odd" experiments with them?

Deep-voiced men 'have more kids'
Men with deep voices tend to have more children than those who speak at a higher pitch, scientists say.
Their finding is based on a group of hunter-gatherers in Tanzania known as the Hadza, who can be studied without bias because they use no birth control.

Males who hit lower notes as they talked had about two more children on average than squeaky speakers.

It fits with observations that women find masculine voices more attractive, the team reports in Biology Letters.

"There are a lot of reasons why lower pitch and reproductive success could be linked," said Coren Apicella, from the Department of Anthropology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, US.

Deep tones are suggestive of increased testosterone levels, which could lead females to perceive such men as better hunters and therefore better providers, she told the BBC.

"Or it could be that men with deeper voices simply start reproducing earlier. We really don't know what is behind this yet."

Sound system

Apicella's group studied the Hadza because "they provide a window into our past" - they live their lives much as our ancestors did, and their behaviours could illustrate key facets of evolution that might otherwise be swamped by modern culture.

Hadza females gather berries and dig for tubers, while the males hunt animals and collect honey. Marriages are not arranged, so that men and women choose their own spouses.

The Hadza are monogamous, but extra-marital affairs are common, and the divorce rate is high.

For the study, voice recordings were collected from 49 men and 52 women between the ages of 18 and 55.

"The experiment was really simple," said Ms Apicella. "I went to nine different camps and I'd just get them to come into my Land Rover and record them saying the word 'hujambo', which means 'hello', into a microphone.

"I then analysed the voice and pitch, and compared it with the person's reproductive history - how many children they had had and how many were still surviving."

The results indicated the deeper the man's voice, the more likely he was to have fathered more children, she said. She added that voice pitch was not linked to child mortality.

"We found that for women, the voice pitch was not connected to reproduction."

'Hadza Olympics'

Because of the similarity which their hunter-gatherer lifestyle bears to that of our ancestors, the reproductive success of the Hadza could be indicative of the way that human beings evolved.

If females are drawn to deeper voices, this would drive selection in the population towards that trait. In other words, lower-pitched male speakers would become dominant over time.

"It's possible that vocal dimorphism has evolved over thousands of years, partly due to mate selection," explained Ms Apicella. "Perhaps at one time, men and women's voices were closer in pitch than they are today."
Her group has plans to extend its study. It is analysing data gathered from an experiment designed to test whether lower voice pitch in Hadza men really is any kind of indicator of performance.

"I set up the 'Hadza Olympics'," she said. "The tribesmen participated in lots of activities, like archery competitions, racing, hunting, etc.

"I'm going to look now at these to see if there is a link between hunting success, reproductive performance and voice pitch."

The research was undertaken with David Feinberg of McMaster University and Frank Marlowe of Florida State University.


Lisa Marie said...

Wow, some people have alot of time on their hands to conduct surveys like that! JK! =) I am sure they do get paid for it.

I personally prefer a guy with a deeper voice myself - just seems more 'manly' ya know?

But I don't think its a gender versus gender thing (male versus female) so to speak - I have a friend who hates Rachael Ray, partly for her voice. My friend is a gal - and she says Ray's voice is too raspy/husky.

On the other hand, my husband hates her cuz she is too 'girley'. The first time we tuned into her show, she refered to sandwiches as 'sammies'. My husband has not mentioned her voice, so it was her personality - her reference to sandwiches - which has made us never tune in to her show again lol

teahouse said...

Very interesting study. The Fiance has a really low voice, and that was one of the first things I found attractive about him.

But then again, I have a low voice as well. When I was a girl I always felt like I wasn't "girly" enough, but as I got older I found that it was nice. And fun to sing alto!

It's definitely a big turn off when a guy has a high-pitched and screechy voice. But maybe it's true for both men and women.