What do you look for in a girlfriend, boyfriend, or partner? What’s your type? Most people have thought about the features they find most attractive in a person. I know I have had many giggling conversations with friends discussing dark brown verses bright green eyes, buzz cut verses messy curly hair, strong body verses lean, confident verses sensitive, book smart verses street smart. Everyone has their own opinion on what features and aspects makes someone attractive; granted, there are even some universal features of beauty that transcend cultures, such as large doughy eyes and plump lips for women, and a heavy brow and square jaw for men. But what about a person’s voice? Have you ever thought about what kind of voice you are attracted to?
It turns out males are attracted to certain pitches of female voices. Researchers looked at males’ rating of female attractiveness based off of voices (Feinberg, DeBruine, Jones, Perrett, 2008). Male participants listened to two voices: a target voice and a voice where the pitch was heightened, or a target voice and a voice where the pitch was lowered. Males in both experimental groups preferred the higher pitch voice out of the two options.
Females are also attracted to certain male voices; however their preferences change depending on their menstrual phase (Puts, 2005). Women prefer males with higher pitched voices when they are ovulating and lower pitched voices when they are not. In other words, women prefer males with high pitched voices when they are primed to think of long-term mating contexts and prefer males with lower pitched voices when they are primed to think of short-term mating contexts. Furthermore, female preference in male voice pitches also change depending on whether they are breastfeeding or not (Chatterjee, 2015). When women are nursing their children, they prefer men with higher pitched voices. What causes this shift in voice preference?
Higher levels of testosterone are correlated with lower pitched voices (Chatterjee, 2015). Additionally, both men and women associate lower pitched voices with proficient hunters (Chatterjee, 2015). Thus when women who are not currently breastfeeding infants might prefer lower voices because they are attracted to the stronger genes of a skilled hunter, yet once they have a child, women have a preference towards men they believe will be more invested in helping raise the child. This shift in attraction to voice during the menstrual cycle is similar to women’s attraction to faces. When women are ovulating, they are more attracted to men who have both masculine and feminine features, but when they are not ovulating, the are more attracted to men with only masculine features (Gangestad et al., 2014). This further suggests that when women are in a context where they are looking for long-term partners, they are more attracted to characteristics that suggest a male will be a good father and when women are in a context where they are looking for short-term partners, they are more attracted to males are strongly exhibit hyper masculinity.
Furthermore, voices are used as shortcuts to infer people’s personalities (Berry, 1992). Similar to the halo effect, people with attractive faces are assumed to have attractive personalities, people with attractive voices are assumed to be more warm, honest, likeable, dominate, and competent. Moreover, maturity of the voice plays a role in how we interpret people’s personality. Someone with an immature voice is assumed to be warm and honest, but not powerful and competent, while mature sounding voices are believed to be associated with power, intelligence, and dominance (Berry, 1992).
So next time you find yourself giggling with friends about the perfect partner, don’t forget to give him/her/them a beautiful voice, it plays an important role in attraction.
Berry, D. S. (1992). Vocal types and stereotypes: Joint effects of vocal attractiveness and vocal maturity on person perception. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 16(1), 41-54. Chatterjee, A. (2013). The aesthetic brain: How we evolved to desire beauty and enjoy art.Oxford University Press.
Feinberg, D. R., DeBruine, L. M., Jones, B. C., & Perrett, D. I. (2008). The role of femininity and averageness of voice pitch in aesthetic judgments of women’s voices. Perception,37(4), 615-623.
Gangestad, S. W., Simpson, J. A., Cousins, A. J., Garver-Apgar, C. E., & Christensen, P. N.(2004). Women’s preferences for male behavioral displays change across the menstrual cycle. Psychological Science, 15(3), 203-207.
Puts, D. A. (2005). Mating context and menstrual phase affect women’s preferences for male voice pitch. Evolution and Human Behavior, 26(5), 388-397.