By Heather Kember, Western Sydney University and Marina Kalashnikova, Western Sydney University
We’ve heard of the physical effects on our body when we are talking to someone we are attracted to, like pupils getting larger or butterflies in our stomach.
Apparently, if their feet are facing towards us, that’s a good sign. If their arms are folded, not so much. But you can also gauge the level of someone’s attraction by their voice.
Male and female pitch.
The biological gender differences in the human voice are very clear. Female voices have higher pitch and male voices have lower pitch.
These differences are thought to be because of evolutionary pressures such as mating choices. In the animal world, pitch is associated with larger animals that can cause a bigger threat.
So by lowering their pitch, males can show their physical dominance in front of their competitors and appear more sexually fit to females. As a result, women find men with lower-pitched voices more attractive. It’s the opposite for men, who are more attracted to women with higher-pitched voices, which is perceived as a marker for femininity.
Listen: Matty J speaks to Clare and Jessie about what attracts him on The Binge.
Attractiveness in the voice is important for the impressions we give our potential partners. In research settings, this is studied by asking listeners to rate voices of people they have never seen as either attractive or unattractive.
Using this method, one study showed that people who reported being more sexually experienced and sexually active were rated to have more attractive voices by strangers. That is, the specific qualities that the raters were perceiving in the voices were indicative of these people’s mating behaviours and sexual desirability.
We actually have the ability to change the attractiveness of our voice depending on our interlocutor, and we do this without knowing. Women sometimes modify their voices to sound most attractive during the most fertile part of their menstrual cycle. Men also modify the pitch in their voice, specifically when confronted with potential competitors in dating scenarios.
This means that just like we fix our hairstyle or clothes to look more attractive for a date, we also give our voices an unconscious makeover to sound more attractive and sexually fit.
Sounding the same.
Another phenomenon that may also cause changes in the way we speak when talking to a love interest is something called “phonetic convergence”. People who talk to each other tend to start sounding more similar, completely unaware they are doing so.