20.06.2018 change 20.06.2018

What does voice tell us about a person? Psychologists from Wrocław investigate

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Men with lower voices are considered more attractive, while women with higher voices are more attractive to men. Women in the role of authority try to lower their voice to make it more masculine. These are the results of voice research conducted by Wrocław psychologists.

Researchers from the Institute of Psychology at the University of Wrocław conduct research on non-verbal communication, including the human voice. They focus not on what we say - but what the voice sounds like, it`s timbre, whether it is high or low, whether someone speaks fast or slowly, says Prof. Piotr Sorokowski from the Institute of Psychology, University of Wrocław

Voice research conducted at the institute can be divided into three groups. In one group, scientists check whether voice says something about a person, that is, whether it contains reliable social or biological information about a given person. Researchers carry out acoustic analyses of the voices of recorded people. They check how the acoustic features of a given voice, such as its timbre or the speed of spoken words, are associated with various people`s traits.

Which psychological characteristics can be easily assessed based on the person`s voice? One of the easiest variables to grasp is the level of stress. "We did tests in which we checked whether this was related to the release of hormones during stressful situations, cortisol in this case. It turned out to be very important" - adds Prof. Sorokowski.

According to psychologists, voice timbre correlates very well with the size and height of the body, because it is related to the structure of the vocal organ. Studies have confirmed that, for example, taller men with a higher body weight have lower voices and shorter men have higher voices.

In another study, Wrocław scientists check how voices are interpreted by people. By recording people who have previously filled in psychological, personality and temperament questionnaires, they examine, for example, whether a given person is dominant.

"Other people listen to the subject`s voice and mark in the questionnaire if they think that this person is dominant or not. This tells us whether it is possible to use voice to do some kind of self-presentation, and whether we are in fact able to reliably read various kinds of information from the voice" - explains the researcher.

Researchers also conduct research to check whether people manipulate their voice to achieve certain goals, for example social goals. And so, in the case of people who are in contact with a very attractive person of the opposite sex - they check whether, for example, a man talking to an attractive woman tries to lower his voice, or his voice does not change.

They also conducted a study to check whether women in a role of authority would make their voice higher - that is, try to appear more feminine and attractive, or rather try to lower it - making it more masculine.

"It turned out that in this case women try to make their voice more similar to men, that is, they significantly lower their voice; it was a very strong effect. It can be concluded that a woman who wants to manipulate her authority tries to speak like a man" - says Prof. Piotr Sorokowski.

Wrocław psychologists conduct voice research not only in Poland and in Western countries, but also in less developed countries, for example in Tanzania, among the Hadza tribe, which is one of the few remaining hunter-gatherer tribes, as well as in India and in the Himalayas.

"These studies carried out in non-Western cultures allow to test evolutionary hypotheses, because of the fact that these groups have natural fertility control, not seen in Western societies anymore. This allows to check whether people with specific voice parameters, for example men with lower voices, have more reproductive success, that is whether they have more children" - says Agata Groyecka, PhD student at the Institute of Psychology, University of Wrocław.

According to the researcher, previous studies show that men with lower voices are perceived as more attractive. It also has a biological basis, which is reflected, for example, in the level of hormones - including those responsible for reproductive success. "Most studies in this field, including ours, show that men with lower voices have more children" - the psychologist adds.

According to Prof. Sorokowski, this research can lead to an interesting conclusion on why men generally have lower voices than women, which is a very large biological difference.

"It is concluded that because lower male voices are more attractive to women, and high women`s voices are more attractive to men, in the course of evolution this types of people were always preferred in sexual selection. These types of people were also more successful in reproduction, so perhaps this was how the difference in the voice timbre between men and women developed" - says the scientist.

He emphasises that voice is not an independent stimulus in sexual selection or in the assessment of attractiveness, but it interacts with other traits. For example, men with low voice have more testosterone, so - as he notes - in traditional tribes, men with lower voice are probably stronger, faster, better hunters, and therefore also more preferred as potential partners. (PAP)

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