Voices, voices, voices…

I don’t know about you guys but I am an avid reader of body language, an ability I’ve wasted much time attempting to perfect. I say wasted, because in the world of gaming it certainly feels sort of useless. That said I find it very useful IRL. It is such a crucial part of how I figure a person out that I feel quite crippled trying to understand people online. In this environment the tools we have to figure a person out are very limited. This makes me wonder if we as gamers tend to read even more into a persons voice than others in order to compensate for the lack of other things. So tonight when I couldn’t sleep I decided to look for some research on how a voice impact how we see a person.

Fun facts about voices:
According to research into leadership it is clear that people are more willing to follow or trust someone in charge (male or female) if they have a deeper, darker, more masculine voice.

A study into Human Vocal Attractiveness published in 2014 confirmed that male listeners preferred a female voice that is breathy and relatively high-pitched. This seems to be because a high-pitched voice signals to the male a more petite body type and a submissive personality (because hey, evolutionary psychology doesn’t need to be politically correct). Female listeners preferred a male voice that signals a large body size with a low pitch. The male vocal attractiveness was also enhanced by breathiness, which according to the researchers softened the aggressiveness generally associated with a large body size. The results of the experiments indicated further that humans in their choice of partner still respond to and utilize a vocal interaction strategy similar to that of animal mating calls. Complex language is not the key when trying to seduce someone, it’s all about the voice it seems! Maybe it’s not about what we say, but how we say it.

Other research into vocal attractiveness has investigated the relationship between male human vocal characteristics and the female perception of the speaker. Is there a gap between in our perception of what we, based on someone’s voice, expect a persons physical appearance to be, and the reality of what the person actually looks like? In this study 34 males were recorded and information about their physical attributes was taken such as age, weight, height etc. The recordings were then played back to female judges. They were asked to rate the males’ attractiveness, age, weight and height, and to estimate the muscularity of the speaker. Men with voices in which there were closely spaced, low-frequency harmonics were judged as being more attractive, older and more likely to have a more muscular body type. In reality however there is no relationship at all between any vocal and specific body characteristics. The judges’ estimates were mostly incorrect yet showed an extremely strong agreement amongst them. They all more or less thought the voices indicated a the same appearance in the speaker. This implies that there is a pattern in how we perceive the attractiveness of a voice and the physical attributes we expect with that, wheres in reality people with similar voices are obviously not bound to look alike at all.

What do you think?
So it seems we cannot judge a persons physical appearance based on their voice. What about their personality? Is it possible for a voice to speak of qualities such as clever, sexy or funny? Does the voice tell you a lot about the person or would you be skeptical to say that you know someone who you’ve only ever heard? Have you ever been really intrigued by someone’s voice, in-game or irl? Who of the people you play with would you choose to record an audio book of your favourite piece of literature? Tell us in the comments below!

Photo attribution: “whisper” by Jamin Gray licensed under CC by 2.0

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