March 15, 2012
Voters Prefer Candidates With Lower-pitched Voices
Could the pitch of Rick Santorum´s or Mitt Romney´s voice determine the outcome of the Republican presidential primary election? A new study suggests that it just might.
The research found that voters are more likely to cast their ballots for political candidates with deeper voices, findings which support previous studies that suggest people do indeed make judgments based on the pitch of a person´s voice.
In the current study, researchers recorded seventeen women and ten men saying the phrase: "I urge you to vote for me this November."
Each of these recordings were then electronically modified to create a pair of recordings with a different pitch -- one higher and one lower than the original. Both recordings were then played to "voters" participating in the study.
The researchers found that those listening to the recordings were more likely to support the candidate with the deeper voice, regardless of whether the speaker was male or female.
"Candidates already know about this and they have been using vocal coaches to enhance their electability and what we have done is proven the folk wisdom that the structure of the human voice matters and actually shown that scientifically,” said study co-author Casey Klofstad of the Department of Political Science at the University of Miami.
A separate study published last November also revealed a preference for lower-pitched voices. However, that study used recordings of former presidents rather than hypothetical candidates. Researchers say some of those study participants might have recognized the presidential voices, and cast their “votes” on political preferences rather than the pitch of the speaker´s voice.
The researchers believe the current study goes further because for the first time it used both male and female voices.
However, since it was conducted in a laboratory setting with fictional candidates, the researchers said they want to test their findings in real-world elections.
"It's clear that our voices carry more information than the words we speak. Knowing this can help us understand the factors that influence our social interactions and possibly why there are fewer women elected to high-level political positions,” study researcher Rindy Anderson at Duke University told BBC News.
In another part of the study, researchers found that women with lower voices were perceived to be stronger, more competent and trustworthy.
Professor Sophie Scott, a specialist in human communications at the University College of London´s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, told BBC News that both men and women deliberately speak with certain pitches.
"What we're showing with our voices is what we consider to be an appropriate way of speaking and to show things about ourselves that we want other people to like about us or know about us,” she said.
"You can't treat the voice as some passive thing reflecting back very simplistic information about people."
The study was published online March 14 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
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