Why Do We Prefer Some People’s Voices Over Others?

September 9, 2022

Have you ever found yourself drifting off to Jamie Dornan’s deep, soft voice? Or maybe you’ve caught yourself dreaming of Scarlett Johannson’s breathy utterances? You’re not alone!We’ve all had it where you meet someone for the first time and you’re surprised by their voice. Perhaps you’re expecting your boss to have a much lower voice or your Hinge date looks amazing on their profile but then they open their mouth and the attraction has instantly disappeared…

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The science behind attractive voices of the people

Picture this: you’ve got a cold and you’re chuffed that you’ve ended up with that low, sexy tone. Imagine the Friends episode where Phoebe becomes obsessed with wanting to keep her husky voice. This love for a lower-pitched voice is more scientific than you think… Past studies have shown that men are seen as more attractive if they have a lower voice. This may be because pitch relates to size. University College London discovered that women prefer men with a low-pitch voice because it indicates a larger body size, an attribute seen as more attractive in men. Interestingly, UCL found that this linked back to animal instincts where deep growls signify dominance and power.When it comes to women, however, things get a little more stressful and complicated. Some studies suggest that women are more attractive if they have a higher pitched voice. According to The Royal Society Publishing, "Women with relatively high-pitched voices are typically perceived as more feminine, younger and more attractive than women with low-pitched voices". However, at the same time, several studies suggest that women with lower-pitched voices are seen as more ‘sexy’. Confusing, right? Some scientists think that higher voices are linked to youth and femininity whereas lower-pitched voices are linked to confidence and maturity. In fact, women with lower-pitched voices are judged as being more competent and seen as better leaders. So, maybe it depends on the individual perception of what is attractive in a partner?This altering of perceptions suggests that women may actually raise the pitch of their voice to indicate femininity but lower it in situations where they want to be taken seriously. Which brings us on to the question of….

a group of friends enjoying each others voices

Is your voice a symbol of leadership and social status?

As if our voices weren’t already doing enough, a study by the University of Stirling has also found that people’s pitch is linked to their social status. Changing your pitch is dependent on who they're talking to but also how ‘dominant they feel’ in the situation. This may explain why men’s voices may be lower when in a group compared to around authority figures. Or, why do women lower their pitch around men who are getting attention from other women? The study also suggests that when women use a lower pitch, this conveys a sense of ‘social dominance’ because ‘low-pitched voices are often attributed to traits such as competence, trustworthiness, and leadership.’ Another study published on Plos One found this to be true of female voices, with a woman's lower-pitch voice conveying her strength and power.

Related Article: The vocabulary of sound

So what does this all mean?

Although there are many contrasting studies around what makes us prefer differently pitched voices, it’s clear that it differs depending on the scenario. Maybe these studies suggest the link between an attraction to authority and to lower voices? Or maybe you disagree completely with this obsession with a lower-pitch. So tell us, what type of voices do you find attractive?

Related Article: Chalkboards to Beethoven: why do we like some sounds?

As you can tell, we all have totally different likes and dislikes when it comes to sound. These preferences can play a big part in how we enjoy the spaces around us too! Take our Hearing Personality test to find your Hearing Aura and get access to tips and tricks on how to make the most of the sounds around you.

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