Sexual Infidelity Judged by Pitch in Voice

The pitch of your voice depends upon the levels of testosterone and estrogen present in your system. Generally, males have a low-pitched voice while females have a high-pitched voice. This study found that males attribute higher sexual infidelity to higher-pitched female voices. Females attribute higher sexual infidelity to lower-pitched male voices. Both, however, consider a higher-pitched female voice as attractive. Possibly, people use these evolutionary psychological tools as strategies in assuring reproductive success as well as fidelity while choosing a potential mate as a long-term partner.

Sexual infidelity can be viewed as both beneficial and harmful to both sexes. Potential benefits for males include increased reproductive success by procreating with additional females, while females may benefit indirectly by having a viable offspring or directly by gaining material resources. But risks of infidelity include exposure to sexually transmitted infections, retaliation from the partner if infidelity is discovered and loss of material resources. High testosterone in males and high estrogen in females are linked with reproductive success. The indirect indicators of these hormones are features such as voice. A typical low-pitched male voice and high-pitched female voice depend upon levels of testosterone and estrogen respectively. This study tested whether observers perceive sexual infidelity by listening to the pitch of male and female voices.

* This study involved 49 young males and 55 young females.
* Voices of nine males and nine females were recorded while they uttered the English vowels (a, e, i, o, u).
* Two versions of these recordings, a feminized version with raised pitch and a masculinized version with lowered pitch, were created.
* Participants then listened to these modified voice pairs, and indicated which they thought was more likely to cheat and which voice they thought was most attractive.

* Men chose feminized (high-pitched) female voices as more likely to cheat on their partners than the masculinized (low-pitched) female voices.
* Women chose masculinized male voices as more likely to be unfaithful than feminized male voices.
* Both men and women selected feminized (high-pitched) female voices as more attractive than masculinized low-pitched female voices.
* While attributing fidelity to same-sex voices, both males and females showed no major difference between high-pitched or low-pitched sounds heard.

Shortcomings /Next Steps
The participants made a clear choice between high-pitched and low-pitched sounds from opposite sexes while deciding about fidelity. But when they heard a voice from the same sex, an alternation in pitch did not affect their conclusions about the likelihood of cheating. Also, both males and females found higher-pitched female voice attractive. More research should be undertaken to understand the psychological basis of these discrepancies.

Sexual infidelity is a major concern when choosing a long-term partner. Testosterone in males and estrogen in females are two hormones that are linked with mating success. High testosterone in males is an indicator of better health and reproductive capacity; similarly high estrogen levels in females correspond to physical attractiveness and fertility. People use morphological features of a person in assessing sexual fidelity. Pitch of a voice is one such feature affected by these hormones. This study found that the pitch of a voice may influence perception of fidelity in experimental settings. For extending the findings into real life, more research might be required.

For More Information:
Voice Pitch Influences Perceptions of Sexual Infidelity
Publication Journal: Evolutionary Psychology, 2011
Jillian J M O’Connor; Daniel E Re; McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada and University of St. Andrews, Scotland

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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