In the wild, suitors vie for affections with grand displays of dance or feathery flourish. Humans, on the other hand, make first impressions with opening lines.
A group of European researchers gathered 30 heterosexual singles between the ages of 20 and 40 for two speed-dating events to study the competitive behaviors involved in sexual attraction.
One important facet they observed: voice modulation.
It was expected that males might assume a deeper voice when introduced to a prospective female mate — and studies do support the idea that women prefer a more masculine tone. But the scientists were surprised to find that women too tended to drop into a huskier version of their voice when speaking with men they wanted to have sex with.
“Our results contradict the prediction that women ubiquitously feminize their voices towards preferred potential mates,” the study authors write in the paper, published in the current issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “Moreover … men preferred women who spoke with a lower minimum pitch.”
During the trials, each participant was asked to answer “yes” or “no” to a hypothetical relationship, and the participant behind them was able to see how their current date’s votes stacked up.
While women reserved their perceived sexier voices for the men they personally found desirable, they only did so if other women had previously agreed — indicating that the woman’s voice is also a weapon in mating competition.
Researchers think these findings could translate to other areas of society.
They write, “The capacity for women and men to dynamically alter their voice pitch therefore has the potential to affect reproductive success, but beyond this, it may function to manipulate the perceptions and behaviors of others in a wide range of social, economic and political contexts.”
Performance aspects of dating aside, the researchers also noted that women were much pickier, giving positive votes for only a third of their dates. Men said “yes” to half the women.
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