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I dedicate this discussion to our overlord Neal, who had me at the first cranky "godammit!" As I suspect most female humans would agree, a lower pitched male voice is considered more attractive than a higher-pitched voice. Studies have shown that women prefer deep-voiced males as short-term sexual partners, that American men with deeper voices have more sexual partners, and that Hazda men with deeper voices have more surviving offspring. But to deflate the balloon of the sexual selection theory, a recent paper reported that deeper-voiced men have lower quality sperm than their shrill counterparts. So, is there an evolutionary reason for perceiving deep-voices as more attractive? Deep voices are associated with a heavier, taller man, presumably a better fighter or provider. But why would this undoubtedly very masculine quality result in lower sperm quality? The researchers speculate that the evolutionary model to be applied in this case is not based on phenotype-indicates-fecundity but rather on a trade off between sperm production and a heavy male investment in competition between males for female attention. 

The Barry White Syndome: Why Are Deep Voices Attractive?

Darth Vader had one thing going for him: a deep voice.

The ranks of George Clooney, Denzel Washington, Clint Eastwood, Don LaFontaine, and Barry White includes a common factor: A lower pitched voice—considered a positive masculine feature associated with with older, heavier, taller, hairier, and more attractive men (1). Studies have demonstrated a female preference for men with deeper voices as short-term partners (and preference seems to vary across the menstrual cycle, peaking during the height of fertility) (2,3). And elsewhere, research finds that North American men with lower-pitched voices report higher numbers for sexual partners in comparison to men with higher-pitched voices (4); and that Hazda men with lower-pitched voices have more living offspring (pitch is not an indicator of fecundity, but mate suitability) (4). Sexual selection has been proposed as a reason for deeper voices—the timbre and pitch suggest an attractive, fertile encounter. But a December PLoS paper reports that men with deeper, attractive voices have lower sperm quality than men with less attractive voices. Is there a evolutionary basis for voice preference?

There is certainly a link between testosterone and voice pitch: when testosterone levels begin to rise during puberty, it triggers changes in the larynx and in the vocal cords resulting in lower pitched voices. So deeper voices become associated with other manifestations (like facial hair) of testosterone, and consequently, perceived sexual fitness. Women (and likely men) consistently make positive judgments about masculinity based on voice pitch that include both physiological and behavioral traits. In addition to the characteristics noted above, men with lower pitched voices are perceived as being physically larger (taller, heavier) and are believed to be better fighters and providers (4).

These assessments aren’t entirely made up. There is evidence that secondary sexual traits can predict health and fertility of a partner. Brilliant colors and showy displays have long been natural indicators of potential sexual fitness. For example, deer with bigger, more complex antlers also have larger testes and more motile sperm (5). Lower frequency sounds have been linked to larger body size across all primate species:

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Replies to This Discussion

I don't know - I never have liked deep voices.  It just sounds like the bass was turned too high to me.

You are not female :-) Maybe you do not like deep male voices because they sound like fierce competitors to you. I'm really going into the deep end of evolutionary psychology now, LOL!


Now I can see it. =)

MP - invisible post. =)

doone - no loving. =)

Sexual partners - too many. 

Offspring - one.

Physically - large.

Hairy - not.

Perceived as better fighters or providers could only be perception. Big dogs usually don't have much to prove.

Overlord - Funny. =)

Well, big dogs don't have much to prove until other equally big (or almost as big) dog shows up. Same goes for chimpanzees or gorillas :-)

Not hairy compared to what? I'm pretty sure you're hairier than your 13 year old self :--)

Sexual partners: too many?? Never heard that one. Unless a nasty disease was picked up from one of them, or unless it is the evo-psych equivalent of "I swear it was the biggest fish ever! It got away at the last second!" (just messing with you).

Women; divorces cost, and I haven't told all my Solstice stories yet. =)

Usually other big dogs don't care, the only ones looking for a fight are those with something to prove.

I may try growing a beard again, but usually I end up with a very light scraggly biker beard. I guess I'm hairier than when 13, don't remember. =)

Diseases? Nothing a few antibiotics can't handle. 

Here is the abstract of the PLoS paper (it is free access):

Low Pitched Voices Are Perceived as Masculine and Attractive but Do They Predict Semen Quality in Men?

Leigh W. Simmons1,2*Marianne Peters1,2Gillian Rhodes2

1 Centre for Evolutionary Biology, School of Animal Biology (M092), University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, Australia, 2 ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, School of Psychology, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, Australia

Abstract Top

Women find masculinity in men's faces, bodies, and voices attractive, and women's preferences for men's masculine features are thought to be biological adaptations for finding a high quality mate. Fertility is an important aspect of mate quality. Here we test the phenotype-linked fertility hypothesis, which proposes that male secondary sexual characters are positively related to semen quality, allowing females to obtain direct benefits from mate choice. Specifically, we examined women's preferences for men's voice pitch, and its relationship with men's semen quality. Consistent with previous voice research, women judged lower pitched voices as more masculine and more attractive. However men with lower pitched voices did not have better semen quality. On the contrary, men whose voices were rated as more attractive tended to have lower concentrations of sperm in their ejaculate. These data are more consistent with a trade off between sperm production and male investment in competing for and attracting females, than with the phenotype-linked fertility hypothesis.

Guys voices change according to rank also. Men's voice pitch raises in deference to the alpha of the group.  

I will just allow myself a shallow comment:  I find deep lower tones of voice for men more attractive; but, I also find lower voices for women attractive too, much more than high pitched voice...!!!!!


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