Wednesday, June 16, 2010

your voice reveals how strong you are!...and how you can fight

This is fascinating....

Both men and women can accurately assess a man's upper body strength based on his voice alone, suggesting that the male voice may have evolved as an indicator of fighting ability. (hat tip to the New Scientist)

It is really interesting that it all comes back to fighting too.

Adaptations in humans for assessing physical strength from the voice

Recent research has shown that humans, like many other animals, have a specialization for assessing fighting ability from visual cues. Because it is probable that the voice contains cues of strength and formidability that are not available visually, we predicted that selection has also equipped humans with the ability to estimate physical strength from the voice. We found that subjects accurately assessed upper-body strength in voices taken from eight samples across four distinct populations and language groups: the Tsimane of Bolivia, Andean herder-horticulturalists and United States and Romanian college students. Regardless of whether raters were told to assess height, weight, strength or fighting ability, they produced similar ratings that tracked upper-body strength independent of height and weight. Male voices were more accurately assessed than female voices, which is consistent with ethnographic data showing a greater tendency among males to engage in violent aggression. Raters extracted information about strength from the voice that was not supplied from visual cues, and were accurate with both familiar and unfamiliar languages. These results provide, to our knowledge, the first direct evidence that both men and women can accurately assess men's physical strength from the voice, and suggest that estimates of strength are used to assess fighting ability.


richardisiand said...

I have three observations:

Mike Tyson
Walter Payton
Aaron Neville

Chris said...

Nice one Richard! Good point, well made!

I wonder if it is about more than a deep voice though? Maybe the patterns of speech or rhythms or something?

Noah said...

The most obvious contradiction...Ronnie Coleman. Deadlifts 800 lbs, has a goofy high-pitched voice.

Chris said...

Noah - true. Again, i wonder if it about more than pitch?

Chris said...

In the New Scientist piece I link to, referring to this study it says:

What aspects of voice we link with strength remain unknown, since there was no correlation between a man's strength and the pitch or timbre of his voice. That's surprising, says David Puts at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, since previous research showed deeper voices were rated as coming from stronger men.

So it is not about how deep your voice is.

John Sifferman said...

Don't testosterone levels affect voice pitch? For example, people with deeper voices often have high testosterone levels.

Chris D said...

Mating context and menstrual phase affect women's preferences for male voice pitch "Results indicate that low VP is preferred mainly in short-term mating contexts rather than in long-term, committed ones, and this mating context effect is greatest when women are in the fertile phase of their ovulatory cycles. Moreover, lower male F0 correlated with higher self-reported mating success."

Voice pitch predicts reproductive success in male hunter-gatherers

Chris said...

Thanks John and Chris.

I am sure there is a correlation with testosterone.

The interesting thing - as I commented above - is that in this case, judging strength and fighting ability, there is no correlation with voice pitch. Hence Ronnie Coleman or Mike Tyson

Chris D said...

Women use voice parameters to assess men's characteristics

"We recorded 26 men enunciating five vowels. Voices were played to 102 female judges who were asked to assess vocal attractiveness and speakers' age, height and weight... We found that men with low-frequency formants and small formant dispersion tended to be older, taller and tended to have a high level of testosterone. Female listeners were consistent in their pleasantness judgment and in their height, weight and age estimates. Pleasantness judgments were based mainly on intonation. Female listeners were able to correctly estimate age by using formant components. They were able to estimate weight but we could not explain which acoustic parameters they used. However, female listeners were not able to estimate height..."

Chris D said...

The ‘source-filter’ theory stipulates that, in mammals (including humans), vocalizations result from a source signal generated by vibrations of the vocal folds and are then filtered in the cavities of the vocal tract (Fant 1960). The basic pitch of a vocalization, i.e. its fundamental frequency (F0), is determined mainly by the length of the vocal folds (Titze 1994). When the signal goes through the vocal tract, some frequencies are selectively amplified: these frequencies are called ‘formants’ (Fant 1960). This selected amplification depends on the size of the vocal tract and the volume of its cavities (Fant 1960). Relationships between acoustic parameters of vocalization and characteristics of the signaller, especially his body size have been studied in a number of mammal species (Morton 1977; McComb 1991; Masataka 1994; Fitch 1997). A number of researchers have studied whether fundamental frequency provides an accurate cue to body size (McComb 1991; Masataka 1994): they predicted that larger males emit lower frequency sounds. This prediction, which is based on the hypothesis that the length of the vocal folds increases with body size (Titze 1994), has been verified across species: larger species produce lower-pitched vocalization than smaller ones (Hauser 1993). However, within mammal species, this is not the case (McComb 1991; Masataka 1994). Recently, a number of studies have suggested that formant frequencies may provide a more reliable indication of body size (Fitch 1997; Owren et al. 1997; Reby & McComb 2003) and may also provide an indication of the signaller's age (Reby & McComb 2003).