In three previous posts, I tackled voice-related issues including the relationship between a man's voice and his reproductive fitness (see here), women's fluctuations in their voice pitch as a function of whether they are attracted to a man (see here), and finally the relationship between a man's voice and his physical strength (see here). Clearly, much can be gleaned by listening to individuals' voices.

In today's post, I describe a recent paper coauthored by Jillian J. M. O'Connor, Daniel E. Re, and David R. Feinberg and published in Evolutionary Psychology, in which the researchers explored the relationship between voice pitch and ascriptions of likely sexual infidelity. The theoretical justifications for this prospective link stem from the fact that men's and women's voice pitches are correlated to testosterone and estrogen respectively. Furthermore, men and women possessing higher testosterone and estrogen levels respectively have been linked with a greater likelihood of sexual infidelity (and a greater number of sexual partners).

O'Connor et al. recorded the voices of nine men and nine women as they uttered a set of English vowels. Their voices were then manipulated to make them more feminized or masculinized. Subsequently, 49 men and 55 women were asked to listen to pairs of voices and choose which of the two corresponded to the individual most likely to engage in sexual infidelity. Unbeknownst to the participants, the target pairs stemmed from the same individual. In other words, a participant would hear the masculinized and feminized voices orginating from the same individual and make a forced choice. They also had to choose which of the two voices was more attractive to them. Here are some of the key findings:

(1) Female participants chose the masculinized men's voices as more likely to stray on a romantic partner (p < .001). They did not attribute a differential level of cheating as a function of voice pitch for female voices.

(2) Male participants chose the feminized women's voices as more likely to stray on a romantic partner (p < .03). They did not attribute a differential level of cheating as a function of voice pitch for male voices.

(3) Voice attractiveness ratings were not correlated with attributions of likelihood to cheat (both for male and female participants). In other words, ascriptions of likelihood to cheat (based on voice pitch) are not driven by individual differences in preferences for particular voice types.

Bottom line: If you are a man possessing a voice akin to that of Barry White or a woman with a voice that can reach the high notes of Minnie Riperton, prepare to be viewed with some suspicion by your romantic partner!

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About the Author

Gad Saad

Gad Saad, Ph.D., is a professor of marketing at Concordia University and the author of The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption and The Consuming Instinct.

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