Is a Sexy Voice More Attractive Than a Pretty Face?
And why it may be more important for you than for your partner.
Posted April 2, 2016 | Reviewed by Jessica Schrader
What makes a voice attractive?
What makes a voice sexy and attractive to you? As you might expect, women find lower-pitched voices more masculine and attractive. Men’s lower voices are associated with higher levels of testosterone (Simmons, Peters, & Rhodes, 2011). In contrast, men prefer women with higher-pitched voices. Women with higher-pitched voices are perceived to be younger—as well as thinner (Collins & Missing, 2003).
Hearing an appealing voice can heighten our feelings of attraction.
The association between vocal and physical attractiveness.
Vocal attractiveness may serve as an important cue to physical attractiveness. People independently perceive both men and women with more appealing voices as having more attractive faces (Collins & Missing, 2003; Saxton, Caryl, & Roberts, 2006). Similarly, both men and women judged as having attractive voices are also more symmetrical (facial and body symmetry are both linked to physical attractiveness, see Hughes, Harrison, & Gallup, 2002). People also perceive individuals rated as having more attractive voices to have more pleasing personalities (Zuckerman, Miyake, & Hodgins, 1991).
The upside to having a sexy voice—and the downside to having a partner with a sexy voice.
Both men and women with attractive voices tend to have sex earlier and to have more sex partners overall (Gallup & Frederick, 2010). These sexual advantages may be due to their vocal attractiveness or to their associated physical attractiveness. Similarly, men who speak with less frequency variation (more monotone) and use more dominant language also report having more sexual partners (Hodges-Simeon, Gaulin, & Puts, 2010). Although a sexy voice may heighten our initial attraction to a partner, both men and women with attractive voices are more likely to be sexually unfaithful (Gallup & Frederick, 2010). Individuals with sexy voices may therefore make better short-term rather than long-term partners.
How to make your own voice sexier.
The strategy you may want to use might depend upon whether you are looking for a partner or are already in a relationship. Research shows that women speak in a higher voice pitch when speaking to an attractive stranger (Fraccaro et al., 2011). These researchers speculated that “speaking with higher voice pitch to men that they find particularly attractive may function to increase women’s attractiveness to preferred potential mates” (p. 64). However, when men and women spoke to their current relationship partners over the telephone, men tended to speak in a higher-pitched voice while women spoke in a lower-pitched voice. These authors speculated that men and women might try to match their partner’s vocal pitch when talking to one another (Farley, Hughes, & LaFayette, 2013).
Women seem to be more successful at trying to make their voices sound more attractive than men (Hughes et al., 2014). In a study, however, men were able to make their voices sound more confident, which may indirectly make them more attractive to women. When trying to sound sexy, both men and women slowed their speech. Further, although men generally prefer women with naturally higher voices, when trying to sound sexy, women actually lowered their voice pitch and increased their vocal hoarseness (Hughes et al., 2014).
Even when you’re not particularly trying to convey romantic interest, others can infer romantic interest from your voice (Farley et al., 2013). Observers accurately guessed whether men and women were talking to a friend or a romantic partner, even when only hearing the short phrase “how are you?” These observers also rated men’s and women’s voices as more pleasant, sexier, and exhibiting more romantic interest when individuals were speaking with their romantic partners rather than their same-sex friends.
Which is more important, vocal or physical attractiveness?
The effects of vocal attractiveness can actually be stronger than the effects of physical attractiveness when each dimension appears alone (Zuckerman et al., 1991). So if you only hear someone’s voice, the effects of vocal attractiveness will be more pronounced than if you meet in person and experience both vocal and visual information simultaneously (Zuckerman et al., 1991). Interestingly, Zuckerman also notes that both visual and vocal attractiveness are particularly important when forming first impressions, and that perceptions of both visual and vocal attractiveness become more positive when we know one another better.
Portions of this post were taken from The Social Psychology of Attraction and Romantic Relationships. Copyright 2015 Madeleine A. Fugère.
If you are interested in learning more about vocal and physical attractiveness, please check out our book, The Social Psychology of Attraction and Romantic Relationships. (Also available on Amazon.) Please see my other Dating and Mating posts here. Follow me on Twitter @SocPscAttrRel.
Collins, S., & Missing, C. (2003). Vocal and visual attractiveness are related in women. Animal Behaviour, 65(5), 997–1004. doi:10.1006/anbe.2003.2123.
Farley, S. D., Hughes, S. M., & LaFayette, J. N. (2013). People will know we are in love: Evidence of differences between vocal samples directed toward lovers and friends. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 37, 123-138. doi:10.1007/s10919-013-0151-3.
Fraccaro, P. J., Jones, B. C., Vukovic, J., Smith, F. G., Watkins, C. D., Feinberg, D. R., & ... DeBruine, L. M. (2011). Experimental evidence that women speak in a higher voice pitch to men they find attractive. Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 9(1), 57–67. doi:10.1556/JEP.9.2011.33.1.
Gallup, G. R., & Frederick, D. A. (2010). The science of sex appeal: An evolutionary perspective. Review of General Psychology, 14(3), 240–250. doi:10.1037/a0020451.
Hodges-Simeon, C. R., Gaulin, S. C., & Puts, D. A. (2011). Voice correlates of mating success in men: Examining “contests” versus “mate choice” modes of sexual selection. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(3), 551–557. doi:10.1007/s10508-010-9625-0.
Hughes, S. M., Harrison, M. A., & Gallup, G. R. (2002). The sound of symmetry: Voice as a marker of developmental instability. Evolution and Human Behavior, 23(3), 173–180. doi:10.1016/S1090-5138(01)00099-X.
Hughes, S. M., Mogilski, J. K., & Harrison, M. A. (2014). The perception and parameters of intentional voice manipulation. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 38(1), 107-127. doi:10.1007/s10919-013-0163-z.
Saxton, T., Caryl, P., & Roberts, S. (2006). Vocal and facial attractiveness judgments of children, adolescents and adults: The ontogeny of mate choice. Ethology, 112(12), 1179–1185. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0310.2006.01278.x.
Simmons, L. W., Peters, M., & Rhodes, G. (2011). Low pitched voices are perceived as masculine and attractive but do they predict semen quality in men? Plos ONE, 6(12), doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029271.
Zuckerman, M., Miyake, K., & Hodgins, H. (1991). Cross-channel effects of vocal and physical attractiveness and their implications for interpersonal perception. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60(4), 545–554. doi:10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1995.
Zuckerman, M., Hodgins, H., & Miyake, K. (1990). The vocal attractiveness stereotype: Replication and elaboration. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 14(2), 97–112. doi:10.1007/BF01670437.