A Man's Voice Can Be Vital in Courtship
Seduction requires the flexible use of a man’s voice.
Posted Feb 27, 2020
What makes Barry White, Richard Burton, and Tom Jones sexy? People would probably agree that they have sexy voices and that this adds to their attractive image. In intimate relationships, we know that male voice pitch is lower, there are more laughs, fewer silences, and speech is more fluid. But what exactly is it about male voices that make them sexy?
Back in 2002, Luigi Anolli and Rita Ciceri from the University of Milan investigated the vocal profiles of males during a seductive interaction with a female (Anolli & Ciceri, 2002). The researchers defined seduction as “a strategic and intentional sequence of moves where the primary motive is to attract (usually sexually) a female.” The aim of their study was to investigate the characteristics of a male participant’s voice during an interaction with a female participant and to examine how features of their voice changed during this process of self-disclosure and increased intimacy with the female participant. Ultimately the researchers were looking for vocal characteristics that were typical of males who were successful at arranging a future meeting with a female participant.
The researchers collected data from 19 young male participants during an interaction with one of 19 female participants, who they did not know prior to the study. The male participants first completed a questionnaire to determine their attraction to and level of interest in the female participant with whom they had been paired. Male and female participants were then given a set of activities in which to engage, such as discussing different photographs and also discussing how young people should spend their time. The aim of this was to encourage interaction between them. The target behaviour for the male was to say, “I would like to see you again.” After the interaction, the male participants completed a further questionnaire to investigate changes in perceptions of attractiveness to the female and to identify any seductive moves they had used. The female participants also completed a questionnaire to assess her interest in the man.
Approximately one month later, the researchers conducted a follow-up study to see if participants had met up in the intervening time. For the couples who had met, the male was deemed to be successful, and for those that had not, the male was considered unsuccessful.
What did they find?
In terms of speech style, the researchers found the following. Firstly, the male participants’ seductive speech style differed from their normal speech style. For example, they used a higher pitch, at a higher intensity, and at an accelerated rate when asking their female partner to meet them again.
However, analysis of the voice patterns over time showed that seduction required flexible use of their voices in modulating their vocal profiles according to the interaction. The researchers suggest that males use an orotund voice in the initial phase of seduction in an attempt to impress a female. An orotund voice is one that is characterised by strength and clarity. Such a vocal style conveys, sociability, vitality, enthusiasm, and strength and is employed to attract the interest of a potential partner. The researchers termed this phase of the interaction vocal exhibition where males were trying to portray themselves in an attractive light.
This initial phase, however, cannot last too long, as such a vocal pattern can become boring or annoying over time and may be perceived as arrogant. Therefore, in the subsequent phase, the male voice changes to become lower in volume and pitch in order to demonstrate tenderness and affability, indicating a more intimate and relaxed situation which is referred to as a self-disclosure voice. The researchers also observed a faster articulation rate throughout the interaction compared to normal speech, suggesting interest in the female.
Overall, the findings from this study indicate that a range of communicative patterns is used in seductive interactions. Males who were successful (met the female again after the initial interaction) showed greater flexibility in their communications than did males who were unsuccessful. Those who were successful showed a more substantial shift from using a higher pitch in the initial phase to a lower monotone profile in the final phase, compared to unsuccessful males who tended to maintain a medium pitch throughout.
Successful males also demonstrated more variability in rates of articulation, paid more attention to and were more aware of the tone and rhythm of their voices compared to unsuccessful males. Furthermore, successful males appeared more capable of regulating their voices during the interaction.
Overall, the study indicates that in order to be successful in flirtatious interaction, flexible communication involving numerous vocal profiles is required and that males need to be conscious of the vocal patterns they employ.
Anolli, L & Ciceri, R (2002). Analysis of the Vocal Profiles of Male Seduction: From Exhibition to Self-Disclosure. The Journal of General Psychology, 129, (2), 149-169.