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Women, Not Men, Have a Sexy Voice, Study Reports

Update Date: Apr 15, 2014 01:44 PM EDT

In order to attract mates, people can use several different tactics. In a new study, researchers examined one particular technique: voice manipulation. The researchers, headed by Albright College associate professor of psychology Susan Hughes, Ph.D., found that women, not men, can manipulate their voices to sound sexy when seducing others.

"This ability may be due to culture and cuts across cultures and time," explained Hughes, who is an expert in evolutionary psychology and voice perception, reported by Medical Xpress. "There is a stereotype of what is a sexual voice in our culture - a low, breathy voice."

For this study, the research team recruited 20 male and 20 female participants. The participants were instructed to intentionally change their voices to represent four desirable traits, which included sexiness/attractiveness, dominance, intelligence and confidence. A normal speech sample was also collected to act as the control. The voice samples contained the same content, which was counting from zero to 10. Another 40 people were recruited to grade how well the voices depicted the trait.

The researchers found women had little trouble manipulating their voices while portraying the sexiness/attractiveness trait. The graders found the female voice samples very attractive. Men, on the other hand, ended up sounding worst. When the researchers examined how the participants manipulated their voices, they found that men and women slowed down their speech. Women, however, also lowered their pitch and increased their hoarseness.

When it came to the other three traits, the graders reported that men and women were effective in portraying dominance and intelligence. However, the raters felt that men were more effective than women in manipulating their voices to sound confident. The researchers noted that it was mainly female raters who gave the men's voices higher scores than the female voices. The researchers hope that this study's findings could help improve vocal coaching methods often used for public speaking and acting.

The findings were published as a part of a larger study in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior.

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