Their study revealed that males find female voices that indicate a smaller body size—high-pitched, breathy voices with wide formant spacing—most attractive. Females, on the other hand, prefer to hear a low-pitched voice with narrow formant spacing, reflecting a larger body size.
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Men prefer high-pitched voices that indicate a small body size, while women prefer low-pitched voices because they indicate a larger body size, though women don’t care for voices that indicate aggression, according to a study published today in the journal PLOS One . No matter the complexities of the estimated 7,000 human languages on Earth, animal instincts still play a big part in how we communicate, according to new research from University College London. Researchers examine which qualities make a voice sound attractive and find that our animal instincts still play a role in our mate selection process. In the wild, animals determine the type and behavior of other animals by the frequency, quality, and formant distance, or resonance, of the sounds they make. For example, a low, deep growl typically indicates a large animal and signals dominance or an imminent attack. On the other hand, pure tones—such as those made by buzzing insects—indicate smaller body sizes, submissiveness, and fear, researchers said. Fun fact: Koalas in Australia can bellow loudly enough that other animals think they’re as large as a bison, according to a study in the Journal of Experimental Biology. But the University College London researchers wanted to know how qualities of the human voice affect the way we estimate a person’s size and attractiveness. The researchers used prerecorded statements from males and females and asked participants to judge the attractiveness of the speaker and the emotions being displayed. Researchers changed the median pitch, formant dispersion, and pitch slope of the voices to reflect different body sizes. Their study revealed that males find female voices that indicate a smaller body size—high-pitched, breathy voices with wide formant spacing—most attractive. Females, on the other hand, prefer to hear a low-pitched voice with narrow formant spacing, reflecting a larger body size. This explains one thing women are looking for in a quality mate and probably a third of Barry White’s album sales. However, low voices with short formant spacing are typically interpreted as aggressive, which may explain why women also prefer breathiness in the voices of their potential suitors. “Despite the development of complex language, human vocal interactions still employ certain animal instincts,” the authors concluded.
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