Terence Stamp’s deep and booming voice might have made him a hit with the ladies, but according to new research a low pitch like his is more likely to have been used to intimidate other men.
Published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, international scientists conducts a three-part study examining the links between pitch and mating systems, attractiveness and, for males only, perceived dominance.
When both heterosexual men and women were played recordings of male voices, the deeper tones were acclaimed by men as sounding more dominant. Women listening to the recordings judged the deeper voices to be more attractive, which was a weaker effect according to the researchers.
Leading the study was David Puts of Pennsylvania State University who says, “If you look at what men’s traits look like they are designer for, they look much better designed for intimidating other males than for attracting females.”
The scientists looked at differences in vocalisation in primates, then conducted an experiment with human men and women.
They found that while the depth of a female voice did little to affect her attractiveness to male listeners, the situation was quite different for male voices. Deeper male voices were considered not just more attractive to females, but more dominant to other males.
The link to dominance was found to be up to three times stronger than the link to attractiveness, which has led the scientists to consider that male pitch might have evolved because of competition between males than by female choice when picking a mate.
Puts says it’s possible that traits such as a deeper voice allowed your male ancestors to appear bigger and more dominant without needing to resort to physical violence.
“This may have been even more important as we developed lethal, hand-held weapons,” Puts says.
The final part of the experiment found that if you have a lower level of the stress hormone cortisol, you could have a higher level of testosterone that is linked to a deeper voice.
“Men who have higher testosterone and lower cortisol have stronger immune response,” Puts says.
He says that the research revealed these hormones are linked to the depth of a man’s voice and this might indicate to women that the man is in good health, “which would provide genes for producing a healthy immune system for their offspring,” according to Puts.