A higher pitch of voice makes female faces appear younger

Summary: Higher voices in women influence how their faces are rated, the researchers report. The faces of women with higher voices were perceived as younger. However, the researchers found no evidence of a link between voice pitch or perceptions of facial attractiveness, health or femininity.

Source: University of Vienna

Psychologists and biologists around Christina Krumpholz and Helmut Leder from the University of Vienna investigated whether voice pitch could influence how female faces are assessed. Their conclusion: a higher pitch indeed influences the evaluation of the corresponding face.

However, this does not apply to all assessments. Faces with a higher voice were rated as younger, but other assumptions that faces are also rated as more attractive, more feminine, or healthier do not apply.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

In the past, attractiveness research focused primarily on the visual sense – which faces are preferred and why?

Gradually, other characteristics such as the voice or the sense of smell were included in the research. Researchers therefore began to think that the voice could also convey information about important qualities of the person. For example, in previous experiments, a higher pitch of voice in females was seen as more attractive, younger, more feminine, and healthier – qualities that are evolutionarily preferred in potential mates.

But what is the importance of the combination of these different qualities, especially since in everyday life, face and voice are intimately linked?

In a new study, PhD student Christina Krumphoz, Professor Helmut Leder and their colleagues asked participants to rate videos of female faces regarding attractiveness, age, femininity and health.

Voice pitch was manipulated so that it was just noticeable, so participants saw the same videos twice, but once with a slightly higher voice.

This shows a woman's face
The fact that audio recordings of high-pitched female voices were found to be no more appealing than lower-pitched voices surprised the researchers. Image is in public domain

The aim was to study whether these subtle differences in voice pitch have an influence on the evaluation of faces, i.e. whether the voice can be ignored or whether it inevitably influences judgment.

It turned out that a higher voice leads to faces being rated as being on average six months younger.

“So the voice seems to play an important role here that we can’t ignore when evaluating faces,” says Christina Krumpholz.

It is different with the assessment of attractiveness, femininity and health. Here, the face seems to provide the crucial information, so the voice can be ignored and does not significantly influence face ratings.

Surprising result

The fact that audio recordings of high-pitched female voices were found to be no more appealing than lower-pitched voices surprised the researchers.

“This could indicate that we may need to rethink existing evolutionary psychological concepts and make more room for individual preferences and differences,” comments Christina Krumpholz on interpreting the results.

The research team will continue to investigate the role that different senses and their characteristics play in attractiveness ratings.

About this Perception and Psychology Research News

Author: Veronique Schallhart
Source: University of Vienna
Contact: Veronika Schallhart – University of Vienna
Image: Image is in public domain

See also

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Original research: Free access.
“The Effects of Pitch Manipulation on Female Speakers’ Male Notes and Their Voices” by Christina Krumphoz et al. Frontiers in Psychology


The Effects of Pitch Manipulation on Female Speakers’ Masculine Notes and Their Voices

Voice and facial cues typically coexist in natural environments, and multisensory processing of voice and face relies on their synchronous presentation.

Psychological research has examined various facial and vocal cues of attractiveness as well as judgments of sexual dimorphism, health, and age. However, few studies have investigated the interplay of vocal and facial cues in attractiveness judgments under naturalistic conditions using dynamic and ecologically valid stimuli.

Here, we used short videos or audio tracks of women speaking full sentences and used voice pitch manipulation to investigate cross-modal interactions of voice pitch on face attractiveness and associated ratings.

Male participants were asked to rate the attractiveness, femininity, age and health of synchronized audio-video recordings or voices only, with original or modified voice pitch. We expected audio stimuli with increased pitch to be rated as more attractive, more feminine, healthier, and younger. If auditory judgments cross-modally influence judgments of facial attributes, we further expected that manipulation of voice pitch would affect ratings of audiovisual stimulus material.

We tested 106 male participants in a two-session within-subject design. Analyzes revealed that voice recordings with increased pitch were perceived as more feminine and youthful, but not more appealing or healthier. When combined with video recordings, raising the pitch lowered the perceived age of faces, but did not significantly influence perceived attractiveness, femininity, or health.

Our results suggest that our manipulation of voice pitch has a measurable impact on judgments of femininity and age, but does not measurably influence vocal and facial attractiveness under naturalistic conditions.

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