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Attraction Study Reveals Why Breathy, Husky Voices are Sexiest

Update Date: Apr 25, 2013 09:09 AM EDT

Deep, husky male voices and high-pitched but breathy female voices were judged to be more attractive than all other voices, a new study has revealed.

Scientists found that women like Marilyn Monroe with high-pitched, sultry voices and men like Barry White with deep, husky voices were perceived as more attractive because listeners gauge the speaker's body size from the frequency of their voice.  

Previous studies on animals and birds reveal that listeners can accurately perceive a caller's body size and intension based on the frequency, voice quality and formant spacing of a call.  Researchers explain that low frequency growls are more likely to indicate larger body size, dominance or a potential attack, whereas higher frequency and pure-tone-like sounds were more likely to suggest smaller size, submissiveness and fear.

The latest study published in the journal PLOS ONE revealed that a similar principle applied to human vocal attractiveness.

Male listeners consistently favored high-pitched but breathy female voices, whereas female listeners found deep, husky male voices to be the most appealing.

Researchers explain that voice preference was linked to body size preference. 

Male listeners preferred female voices with high pitch, breathy voice and wide formant spacing because it correlated with a smaller body size.  On the other hand, females preferred to hear low-pitched male voices with low pitch and narrow formant spacing because it suggested larger body size.

Interestingly, female listeners also preferred male voices that are breathy.  Researchers say the "breathy quality" presumably softened the aggressiveness associated with a larger body size.

Lead researcher Yi Xu, from University College London in the UK, explained that the perfect balance for women was a male voice that revealed the speaker was large enough to be attractive but not aggressive.

"What we found is that for males listening to females, they preferred the voice to be high-pitched - although not too high - and as breathy as possible," Xu told The Times. "These suggest a small body size. Marilyn Monroe would be a very good female example."

Xu added that the study suggested that women preferred a partner who was physically large but not aggressive.

"It makes sense that females don't like a male who is totally aggressive," Xu said, according to The Telegraph. "The pitch indicates masculinity.

"However, breathiness, which is not associated with being large, moderates the aggressiveness," he added.

Researchers conclude that despite the development of complex language, human vocal interactions still employ certain animal instincts. 

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