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Friend or Crush? Your Voice May Give It Away

Update Date: Oct 03, 2013 01:59 PM EDT
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Want to find out if your latest crush is into you? Just listen to their voice.

New research reveals that men and women alter their voices when they talk to people they want to be romantically involved with. Scientists say the latest findings may even help suspecting partners detect infidelity.  

Researchers from Albright College in Pennsylvania examined how people alter their voices, or engage in voice modulation, when speaking to romantic partner versus same-sex friends during telephone conversations.

The study involved 24 callers who were newly in love and still in the "honeymoon" period. The callers were asked to phone their romantic partners, as well as a close same-sex friend. In both cases they were asked to engage in a conversation that started with "How are you?" and "What are you doing?"

Afterwards, researchers played the recording to 80 independent raters who judged the samples for sexiness, pleasantness and degree of romantic interest. Researchers said the raters were exposed to only one end of the conversation and, in some cases, for only two seconds.

The findings revealed that raters were able to correctly identify whether the caller was speaking to a friend or lover.

"It's not just that we change the sound of our voice, but that others can easily perceive those changes," researcher Susan Hughes, an expert in evolutionary psychology and voice perception, said in a news release.

Researchers said the findings suggest that humans alter their voice to communicate their relationship status.

"Vocal samples directed toward romantic partners were rated as sounding more pleasant, sexier and reflecting greater romantic interest than those directed toward same-sex friends," researchers wrote.

The study also performed a spectrogram analysis on the samples to examine pitch and found that both men and women tend to mimic or match the pitch of their romantic partners.

For example, women will use a lower pitch and men will use a higher one when speaking to their lover.

Researchers said this effect "represents desire for affiliation and intimacy" and is a "way to communicate affection and relational connection - 'I am one with you.'"

Surprisingly, researchers also found that when the voice clips were stripped of their language content while keeping elements like inflection and intonation, raters could sense stress and nervousness in the voices of the callers who were speaking to their lovers.

"There was vulnerability associated with the voices of those newly in love. Perhaps people don't want to be rejected," Hughes explained.

The findings are published in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

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